Archive for July, 2008

Just a short post today, but I wanted to share with you what I received today from an old friend. He is a very talented young man who has a bright future, but has some anxiety about making some big decisions.  Here is what he wrote to me.:

…. I’m in a spot in life right now where I’ve got a lot of big decisions to make, and I’m definitely struggling with listening to God instead of to myself and my own desires and wants. I will graduate either in May or December 09, and I just have so many emotions flowing regarding graduation and what to do afterwards that the decision making process has just been a heavy load. I think I’m almost decided, but then it’s a matter of logistics and everything too, which I tend to worry about a bit to much and I don’t trust God to just take care of me as much as I probably should. ….

Ever been there?  I have.  WE spend so much time overanalyzing things based upon fear of them not turning out right.  Here is and excerpt of what I wrote back:

This morning I was in Proverbs 8, so my mind is on wisdom. The word I would have for you is confidence. As long as I have known you, you have been wise, and I have in fact mentioned to many that you were wise beyond your years. God teaches us, instills knowledge and wisdom, and then expects us to make good decisions thus equipped.  Have confidence in that. Don’t make decisions based on fear of it not going right, make them with confidence that God gave you the knowledge and wisdom to make them, and let Him guide the path after that.

Do you feel confident in the wisdom God has given you?  If not — aren’t we wasting it?  So much in life is ruled by lack of confidence or fear.  I would pray that we would live our lives with the knowledge that not only has God given us wisdom, he can show us how to use it! Here was my Bible reading from this morning:

Proverbs 8
Wisdom’s Call

1 Does not wisdom call out?
       Does not understanding raise her voice?

2 On the heights along the way,
       where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

3 beside the gates leading into the city,
       at the entrances, she cries aloud:

4 “To you, O men, I call out;
       I raise my voice to all mankind.

5 You who are simple, gain prudence;
       you who are foolish, gain understanding.

6 Listen, for I have worthy things to say;
       I open my lips to speak what is right.

7 My mouth speaks what is true,
       for my lips detest wickedness.

8 All the words of my mouth are just;
       none of them is crooked or perverse.

9 To the discerning all of them are right;
       they are faultless to those who have knowledge.

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
       knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
       and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
       I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
       I hate pride and arrogance,
       evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
       I have understanding and power.

15 By me kings reign
       and rulers make laws that are just;

16 by me princes govern,
       and all nobles who rule on earth. [a]

17 I love those who love me,
       and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,
       enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
       what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
       along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing wealth on those who love me
       and making their treasuries full.

22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, [b] , [c]
       before his deeds of old;

23 I was appointed [d] from eternity,
       from the beginning, before the world began.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
       when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place,
       before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the earth or its fields
       or any of the dust of the world.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
       when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above
       and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary
       so the waters would not overstep his command,
       and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was the craftsman at his side.
       I was filled with delight day after day,
       rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world
       and delighting in mankind.

32 “Now then, my sons, listen to me;
       blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
       do not ignore it.

34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
       watching daily at my doors,
       waiting at my doorway.

35 For whoever finds me finds life
       and receives favor from the LORD.

36 But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
       all who hate me love death.”

 

It was a nice reminder to me this morning.  I am going to try and move forth into this day with confidence that God is there!

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I am sure that many others besides myself have an internal battle (although few will struggle with it).  Not sure what to call it, but it manifests itself in many ways.  Let me explain.

  • I know I need to get up early some mornings, but there is this internal struggle against it
  • I know I should not eat that extra piece of cake, but I struggle to resist it
  • Hmmm, go cut the grass, or go play golf?
  • Relax and let my wife cook dinner, or get up and go help?
  • Keep that old car that runs well, or go for the shiny new sports car?
  • Do I share with this other person my concern for something they are doing, or is it none of my business? (Uh-oh, it’s getting ugly now)
  • Do I go tell that person I wronged them, or just hope they won’t find out?
  • And so on, and so on …..

I tried to come up with a word for this struggle, but it is tough.  Is it:

Indecision (The inability to decide on a course of action, especially if two or more possibilities exist)?  Doubt (the state of being unsure of something), Or is it possibly just Sin (an act that is regarded as a transgression of God’s will)?

I don’t have an answer here folks, it is a tough call.  I just know this struggle exists, and that it is a battle I have to fight every day.  Things are not very black and white in this realm, nor does the decision apply to all people the same. If you are slim and trim, eating the cake is not a problem, but if you are struggling with weight, it is not good.  I just know that identifying the struggle and how to deal with it is on my heart.  I feel very good about a lot of my decisions, but sometimes I go the wrong way, and that leaves me unsettled.  God provides all we need, right?  Then am I missing something here?  I need him to help me with my decisions (or rather my indecision), but at times I am very confused on which way to go.

Anyway, I am just sharing here, as I said I have no answers, just a question!  How do you deal with this?

I don’t think I mentioned yesterday that on our way to our vacation spot, my car broke down.  Well actually it broke down 4 times before we actually arrived at our destination.  Do you hate when that happens?  Then read on.

So get the picture here.  You’re all excited about your vacation, you are only 37 miles from your destination, driving down the interstate at 70mph (okay, maybe 75), and all of a sudden your car decides to just cut off.  Grr. In the middle lane of a three lane highway.  Ouch.  What follows is not exactly what happened, but I want you to imagine what my conversation with God about this may have sounded like.

Uhh, Lord.  My car just quit running. 

Yes Dennis, I am aware of that.

Well, I could use a little help here God.  I mean, surely you do not want us to have this kind of problem, right?

Exactly what is your problem right now Dennis?

Uhh, my car is not running.

I am aware of that, but why is this such a problem?

I don’t think I understand Lord.  This does not look like a problem to you?  I mean, I am sitting on the side of the interstate, it is like 95 degrees outside, we have no AC, our friends have had to pull off the road behind us, and we are going to be late getting to our wonderful condo!  Not to mention the fact that I wanted to at least get a chance to hit a bucket of balls at the driving range this evening before dark!

Well, it seems as though the plan you made is not exactly following the path you laid, is it?  What does this say to you about plans YOU make Dennis?

I guess they are subject to change based upon what you want Lord.  Is this one of those lesson times again?  Is this one of those events you intend to use to grant me wisdom?  I ask only because I have been known to miss your instruction at times.

So are you telling me Dennis that you only listen for my voice SOME of the time?

Uhh, well, you know how it is Lord, I …., I…., well – I guess so.  I’m sorry Lord.  I just get so busy doing what I think I should do.  So I guess you were trying to get my attention then?

I always want your attention Dennis.  I have so many things to teach you, if you will just be still and listen.  It really does not take that much action on your part. As a matter of fact, the less busy you are in your life, the more you will stay in the moment, which is where I am.  So let me ask you some important questions.

Well Lord, I am sitting on the side of the road, with no way to go anywhere, so you have my attention for sure.

Okay.  Do you want to hear from me?  Do you want to move through life with me as your guide?  Do you believe I can guide you every moment?  Do you understand that I do have a plan for what is best for you?  Are you willing to keep your ear tuned to my voice at all times?

Wow.  That’s a lot of questions!  Of course the answer in my heart is YES to all those questions, but in my day to day life it is so easy to step away from you Lord.  I don’t mean to, but it just happens.  How do I stop it?

Don’t overcomplicate it Dennis.  Just make sure you take time during the day to be still.

Oh — you mean like my car is right now?

You got it.  I may occasionally stop you myself.  I use fatigue, spoiled plans, other people, illness, and yes even death at times to speak to you.  Just make that your first response to all events is to be still a moment and listen, and I will instruct you.

Okay Lord.  So can I start my car now?

Sure Dennis, go ahead.

So them my car started.  Amazing.  And it ran for 25 more miles.  Then it stopped again, 3 more times before we got to our destination, but each time I only had to let it rest a few minutes.  I guess God felt we needed to test out what I learned right away.  Each time I stopped that day, I listened attentively, and I heard his voice.  Some of it had nothing to do with my car, I thought about my blessings, how I take things (like running cars) for granted, etc.  My wife and I took the time to chat a bit (always a good thing), and it really did not bother me much at all to be on the side of the road.  Strange…

Is your life a bit like this?  Does God have to stop you occasionally to get your attention?  Do you intentionally look for times to talk with Him outside of a moment of need?  I know I am guilty of that, but am determined to stop more often, just to have a chat. 

Oh, and by the way, my car breaking down was a mere inconvenience, not a problem.  I need to see more things that way, instead of getting upset anytime one of my plans go awry.

Tell me about your conversations with God outside of pleading prayer.  Do you have enough of them?  I hope so …..

That may be an interesting title, but it is what God brought to mind this morning to really appreciate.  Do you take enough time to be still and be thankful for things?  I know I don’t, and it is a shame to admit I have to be on vacation in Hilton Head to slow down for 5 minutes and appreciate all my blessings.

Anyway, the coffee is some kind of Kenyan blend, and it does actually remind me of times I have been in Kenya in the past, it is very strong!  The condo we are staying at is really nice, and looking out the back window over the balcony is a heavily wooded area looking at a golf course.  Beautiful view, with lots of God things to look at and contemplate.  I slept soundly until 8:30 this morning, which I never do.  Need to get the name of that mattress!  A good start to a good day, but wait — it gets better!

My bible reading this morning was in Proverbs chapter 4 (I am working my way through proverbs for a while, although I may skip around a bit this week)  God brought to mind the phrase, “Actions give results”.  But whoa Dennis…, slow down a bit!  There is so much more in this verse if you will stop and listen to ME:

Prov 4:1 “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
       pay attention and gain understanding.”

It would be easy to read this and and mainly get from it that listening = understanding, but what about all that is in between those two?  The bible gives us so much more when we pause, open our hearts and minds to God, and think a bit harder.  When I do that on this passage I get so many more points:

  • Listening is the first thing I must do (Listen).  Always start there
  • God is our father (my sons), and that is a special bond of love
  • That I should be listening to the Father (to a father’s).  There are way too many voices in my head sometimes telling me what to do (and no I am not schizo)
  • That he has wisdom he offers through instruction (fathers instruction)
  • That I need to be intentional in my efforts to hear God (pay attention)
  • That wisdom is an increase (gain).  I will benefit from getting it
  • What I will gain is understanding (and gain understanding).  Wow.  I so much want to understand more about life, God, me, so on and so on.

Okay, so from just thinking intentionally about what God is telling me, I took that one verse and it was expanded greatly for me.  God is pretty incredible. And reading his Word is easy if I will be intentional!  And to think I used to believe my pastor was so smart getting all those points  :-).

Thank you Father for a bit of understanding this morning that holds a key to so much more understanding!  You know I struggle with being able to apply myself to your Word at times.  Help me to keep these simple points I learned today close to my heart, and expand my understanding every day through your Word.

Amen.

Goodness.  That was only the 1st verse of this chapter.  Do you realize how rich God’s ENTIRE word truly is?  Mind boggling.

I am on vacation for the next week.  This particular vacation has a different feel to it in that I am feeling pretty free to really enjoy it.  My life for over 6 years has been filled with a constant feeling of responsibility for things in my professional life.  My recent change from working for myself to working a “regular” job has been a very welcome change.  Instead of constantly worrying about a business, client needs, etc., I now have been blessed with a chance to have a true vacation from work, and focus on me and what God has for me next.  So what does that mean to me?  I am going away to a vacation that has lots of free time to spend with family, friends, golf and relaxation.  I have realized that those are not enough for me right now.  I believe that I can do a better job in all those areas if I focus on time with God first.  My pastor Jay has told me of many occasions where he has vacationed, but each day started with a special “away” time with God.  I want to focus on that.  I want to start each and every day with a more focused time spent alone early in the day, simply being.  Being with God, being in the Word and seeing how that guides my thinking, my day, and my walk.  I really do not have a big plan, other than to journal my thoughts.  My only plan thus far is to be alone in the a.m., and be still and listen.  Such a simple plan, but I am waiting expectantly.  I believe that taking that posture has great possibilities.  Submitting my heart to God with no agenda, no specific asks other than asking Him to speak to me.  I am going to do that as much as I can.  I am also going to pick up the phone and call my friend Rob, with whom I have had such a great spiritual connection with in the past, but somehow seem to have lost.  I want to speak with my parents with time to talk.  I want to hear my wife’s heart in conversation with her.  I am going to pick up the phone and call Jay, just to hear what words he has for me.  I am just going to enjoy my family, celebrate what God has done for me in blessing me with family,  friends, and whatever comes to mind.  I am going to ask God what he wants me to do next.

Then I am going to lay out a plan for myself, based upon what words I get from God, friends and family.  Maybe it seems strange to you, but to me it feels like what God wants me to do with my time away.

I am looking forward to it, but mostly I am looking forward to what God will tell me.  Pray for my clarity — PLEASE.