God Has Plans…For You…

“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.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

How often have you found yourself clue-less about where you are going in life? How many times have events in your life not “made sense“? If you are saying “I certainly resemble that“, you are not alone.

God doesn’t need our permission to make plans for us, which may even interfere with our own plans. I am also starting to come to grips with the fact that, when God assigns me to a task, I am never completely “off-duty“, and that includes at three-o’clock in the morning.

Recently, after a rough week, I was headed to my favorite place to de-stress, rest and relax, when my phone rang. A friend, after going to an Emergency Room, had been admitted to the hospital. That was the “rough week” part, but the call came because he had just been taken into emergency surgery for a bowel blockage. The caller was my neighbor and mutual friend, and she needed me to accompany her to the hospital. She had just left the hospital and was headed home, so I turned around and did likewise. After tending to the friend’s housemate, who is quite elderly, we headed to the hospital and waited. The surgery took six hours, and it was two more hours before we were able to see him in recovery. Day gone, and rather than less stress, more stress was added. I could have been bitter because my plans got interrupted, but I knew that God has His reasons, and I considered it a privilege to be doing the work He sent me to do.

I had planned to go to my mom’s place the next day (Sunday), but I put that off til Monday, just in case. I hadn’t seen mom in several months, so I was looking forward to that trip. It was also going to be a time of rest and relaxation – NOT. Instead, it was a whirlwind of activity, phone calls and text messages. Just because I wasn’t home, that didn’t mean that I was “offduty“, because my neighbor took the week off (without pay) to take care of both men and needed the moral support. On Tuesday, she found the elderly house-mate in a heap on the floor because he had fallen and couldn’t get up. She had to send him to the hospital also. When I got back home, she was waiting for  me to help her take care of some things at their home.

Not all of our tasks are tedious and toilsome. The following Sunday was Father’s Day, and even though Father’s Day is bitter-sweet for me, it is a special day for most fathers. Before the morning worship service, I went up to one of our elders and wished him “Happy Father’s Day“. He told me that Father’s Day is difficult for him, and I understood what he meant. I don’t need to know the details, but that dear brother was hurting just like I was. I was privileged to show him compassion and the love of Christ, and to pray for him, and all hurting fathers, during our prayer time. Love and prayer are the two best gifts we can give to another person.

I have often wondered why God has left me “stranded” where I am, because the circumstances of being alone in an unfamiliar place weren’t pleasant. After getting married, and moving to the area my wife was living in, she abruptly moved out and moved in with another man. That was over a year ago, and she still hasn’t filed for divorce. The first task God had for me here was a LOT of work on ME. He had a lot to do in my heart and soul, which wasn’t always pleasant, but it WAS necessary. He also couldn’t use me to help my neighbor as long as I was tethered to a wife.

The “help my neighbor” assignment has been going on for over a year, and still isn’t complete. In 2013, she first had a serious bout with allergies and asthma, which entailed taking her to a doctor’s appointment. It also meant 3:00 AM emergency calls to help her with her nebulizer. Then she fell at work and seriously injured herself. More doctor’s appointments, and help around her place. She was out of work for several weeks with that injury. This past March, she had a series of back surgeries, every two weeks for a month. Besides taking her to the hospital for each surgery, I also helped her during her recovery. More “wee hours of the morning” phone calls. This is the same neighbor I am helping with the two elderly men, who are now both in a rehab center.

By now, you are probably asking “Where is the silver lining?” Hasn’t God promised “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”? We aren’t promised a “silver lining” when we go through hard “on-duty” times, but God does promise His blessings, sometimes in a less tangible way. Shortly after I moved her, I was led to a very special church…a church where “family” is more than just a nebulous idea. My church family has been there for me and prayed for me during these tough times. I have also developed far more relationships in that church than in any other church I have been in over the last several years.

Looking at the big picture, this whole plan makes sense. God had to work on me first, before He could use me to accomplish His purposes. I have no real expectation that I will be reconciled to my wife, but God is still in the miracle-working business. I have no clue what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future, and that is all I need to know.

God has plans for me, and He also has plans for you. Are you ready for Him to start working in your life? I pray that you are.

In Christ,

Steve

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Great expectations…

Most, if not all, of us go through life with great expectations…great hopes…big dreams. However, for most of us, those expectations get dashed, often sooner, rather than later. Shouldn’t we expect, dream, hope? Only if they are the right expectations, dreams and hopes.

In “The ‘Winter’ of Life“, I introduced two disciples, whose expectations, dreams and hopes had been dashed. They were in their way to Emmaus after their Lord had been crucified. Sadly, they were in the majority, because the concept of “Conquering King” was far more appealing than “Suffering Servant“. Instead of getting cushy jobs as ambassadors for an earthly kingdom, they were commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ’s heavenly, eternal kingdom. They didn’t understand that “Conquering King” wouldn’t come for many centuries, and that His kingdom would be over a spiritual Israel, not one literally descended from Abraham, although there will be many of Abraham’s children in that coming kingdom.

I remember many years ago, when my first wife and I were expecting our first child. Jokes were going around about me wanting twins. She wanted a girl, and I wanted a boy, and we had names picked out for both. We took Lamaze classes in preparation for our first labor and delivery, which were taught by a nurse-midwife. All our wanting and wishing got a huge reality-check one evening when our instructor came into class with her own children, a boy and a girl. Both had been born with serious birth-defects which caused both of them to be seriously crippled. Our wants and wishes turned to “Lord, we just want a healthy baby!“. I will never forget that moment when our healthy baby girl was born. We were blessed with three more children, two girls and a boy. When we asked for the right thing, God answered our prayers.

No one gets married with the expectation of failure, because marriage is expected to be “Til death do us part“. I would certainly never get married if the vows were “Til death or disconvenience do us part“, but all too often it is the disconvenience which parts couples, rather than death. My first marriage did last “Til death do us part“, however it wasn’t the kind of “natural-causes” one would normally expect, unless massive head trauma and blood loss from a bullet to the head counts as “natural-causes“… Suicide is a horrible way to end a marriage…

The next two marriages ended in divorce, after I was no longer “useful” to them. My fourth marriage hasn’t ended in divorce – yet, but she moved out less than six weeks after we got married, because she was no longer “happy” living with me. She had found another man who makes her “happy” and moved in with him. So much for the commitment in marriage which binds a couple together “Til death do us part“…

Marriage is only one of many places where we have great expectations. How about the child who is an academic-overachiever through-out grade school and high school. and has the potential for great academic achievment, but marries right out of high school and barely finishes college? Or maybe that child goes into the military, rather than going to college? My dad was an academic over-achiever, and I went into the military. I went to college after my time in the service, but only achieved an associates degree. My oldest daughter was an academic overachiever, but only finished her bachelors degree after getting married right out of high school. Were my dad’s great expectations for me justified, or were they a pipe dream, hoping I would follow in his academic footsteps? Were my expectations for my oldest daughter reasonable? Her life got turned upside-down by the death of her mother…

As children, we grow up with grand dreams and great expectations. I grew up during the early days of the space program, so I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, until I learned that they only take people with perfect vision for the space program. I had started wearing glasses while I was in the 1st grade…

I had a modest amount of musical talent, and did well in band and orchestra. I dreamed of being a professional musician, and playing in a symphony orchestra, but the closest I got was playing in an Army band and performing in a community orchestra. While in the Army band, I rubbed shoulders with guys who had been professional musicians but couldn’t make a living at it. I didn’t have what it took to make my dream a reality, so I had to settle for what I could achieve, being the section-leader in an Army band.

Do you see a pattern here? These were MY aspirations, MY great-expectations, which depended on MY talents and abilities, and they all got dashed. I had my aspirations were for all the wrong reasons. They might have brought glory and fame to me, rather than to God. God doesn’t honor selfish aspirations.

Several months ago, when I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to start writing this blog, I had no idea where it was going. All I knew was that I wanted to write about life in the ditches of life, and apply the Word to it. I had no grand plan, no great expectations, just a committment to write whatever the Lord laid on my heart. I dusted off a couple of moldy-oldies to get things going, including “The Old Knight“, in which I laid bare one of my greatest fears – to come to the end of my life alone and unloved. I have trusted God for my topics and my content, and He has guided my hand at every turn. There are always new articles in the pipeline because God is the Lord of infinite supply.

I certainly never envisioned having a world-wise audience. That has been the Lord’s doing, not mine. From Isaiah 55:11 we read, “So shall My word that goes out of from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” That is a promise we can take to the bank because it was given by God, and He always does what He says He will do.

Great expectations – mine were dashed, but God’s are always fulfilled. What is beautiful to me is that God is allowing me to be a part of fulfilling His great expectations. I am His humble servant, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. May His kingdom come, and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!

In Christ,

Steve