Good Samaritan

There is a philanthropic sales strategy that goes like this: Ask for a very large donation, and when they say no, ask for a smaller donation.  They will be so relieved at the opportunity to clear their conscience of saying no the first time that far more people will say yes to this smaller donation than if you had asked for this smaller amount in the first place.  Sneaky, but effective.

I have found that on occasion, God uses a similar strategy with me.  This shouldn’t surprise me.  After all, God created the human psyche.  He, more than anyone, should know how to put it to good use.  Take, for example, this evening as I am going for my walk.  My route takes me past a parking lot, and I happen to notice in passing that someone is sitting slouched down in the front seat of a car with the door ajar.  As I walk on by, my imagination takes over.  He or she is probably just waiting for someone who has run into the store, but I can’t help but wonder – what if it is someone who needs help?  What if they are ill, or passed out?  Maybe I should have looked closer.  Maybe I should have asked if they were okay.

I keep walking, but I am listening now.  Tell me what to do, God.

Around the corner, I spy my second opportunity.  There, in the middle of the road, is a turtle.  His legs are tucked into his shell, but his head is out and looking around.  I walk over and look at it.  This isn’t a terribly busy road, but busy enough.  If he hangs out here much longer he is going to be crushed.  He also appears to be heading in the wrong direction – away from the wetlands.  But then, what do I know about turtles?  I look at his shell.  It is jagged along the back.  Doesn’t that mean it’s a snapping turtle?  I can’t just pick him up, then, can I?  What if he bites my finger off??

As I am standing there pondering the turtle, I am reminded of a time not too long ago when a bird got trapped in the stairwell at work.  I was coming down the stairs when I saw him, and without a second thought I snatched him from where he was beating himself against the window and tossed him outside.  My colleague was standing with his mouth agape.  “I can’t believe you just did that,” he said.  “He could have bit you!” 

I just laughed at him.  “It’s a sparrow, not a velociraptor!” I said.  And I laughed the whole rest of the afternoon.

Now, as I stand in the middle of the road looking at the turtle, I hear my own taunting voice.  “It’s a turtle, not a velociraptor!”  But the fact remains, I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to pick him up.  I don’t know if I should pick him up.  “I don’t know, Lord,” I say.  And when I do not hear an answer, I turn and walk away.

I keep looking back, though.  At one point I think he has moved a little.  A few cars go by, but thankfully swerve around him.  And then, an amazing thing happens.  A car pulls over and a man gets out, picks up the turtle, and returns him to the grass near the water.  Relief washes over me.  I am too far away to call out to him, but I just keep thinking: There.  A good Samaritan.  Thank you.  And secondly: I guess I could have just picked him up.  Now I know.

I continue my walk with a much lighter heart, but I am fully expecting it when I see the third noteworthy item on my walk.  A piece of trash.  “Okay, God, okay,” I say as I bend down to pick it up.  “This is a donation I can give.  Probably your plan all along.”

As I pass back by the parking lot (toting an accumulating fistful of trash), I look to see if the car is gone.  It is.  So it had indeed been someone just waiting.  All three dilemmas are solved.  I bend down and pick up another piece of trash.  My contribution, for today, towards a better world.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Collossians 3:23).

Brazilian Barbecue

This past weekend I was invited to a barbecue with some Brazilians.  I jumped at the chance.  First of all, because seriously, how fun is that?  And secondly, I have a work trip to Brazil this fall.  This was a prime opportunity to make some contacts and glean some tips for a first time visitor.

Now here’s a secret that’s really not a secret at all.  I am someone who sits very comfortably on the introverted side of the scale.  I am not someone who walks into a room and knows every person there within minutes.  Far from it.  But while at this barbecue, I managed to strike up a delightful conversation with a lady who I thought was originally from Brazil and now worked as a botany professor at a university in the U.S.  Good for me!

Twenty minutes later I learned she is actually the wife of an engineering professor and is originally from Poland.

It was still a delightful conversation, but clearly there was something lacking in my conversational skills.  As this realization hit me, I couldn’t help but look around and wonder: What am I doing here? 

I did eventually make the rounds and talk to some folks from Brazil, but I kept thinking of this incident long after the barbecue had ended.  It suddenly occurred to me that as out-of-place as I felt, I was actually in the exact right place precisely because I felt that way.  If I was comfortable all the time, if I felt fully capable of every task that came my way, if I was never thrust out of my comfort zone, then I would be in the wrong place.  It doesn’t do me any good to only take on challenges I already know how to do.  I need opportunities that force me – sometimes against my will – to grow.

I heard a piece of a sermon on the radio the other day where the pastor was saying if we are not uncomfortable in our ministry then we are in the wrong place.  If there is no opposition then we are probably just preaching to the choir.  We should be most excited when we are not comfortable, when things are difficult, and when opposition is mounting, because those are signs that we are needed.  Those are signs that we are in the exact right place.

I think it is an interesting point, and has some truth to it.  Sometimes God intentionally puts us in positions that are outside of our comfort zone.  Like Moses when God charged him with leading the Israelites out of Egypt, we sometimes look around and see others who would be much better suited to the task at hand.  Like Moses, we cry, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it!” (Exodus 4:13).  But God chooses each one of us according to His plan.  And His plan sometimes places us in positions we might not normally choose on our own.  Perhaps God does this to demonstrate his power in our weakness.  Perhaps God is keeping us humble.  Perhaps God is teaching us a skill we would otherwise not attain. 

Sometimes I think God is simply showing us He has a sense of humor.  Let’s send an introvert to the party and see how she does, ha ha! 

Think of this, the next time you find yourself in one of those, “what am I doing here??” moments:  God could have sent someone else.  God could have equipped you differently.  But God made you, just the way you are.  And God chose you, just the way you are. 

Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”  The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  Who gives him sight or makes him blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-11)

Running

I am not a runner.  But I admire people who are.  I would like to be a runner.  Except for that fact that becoming a runner would require me to, well, run. 

I am the epitomy of everything you should not do to become a runner.  I follow no schedule whatsoever.  I wait for a day when I am entirely stressed and have been sitting hunched over a desk for way too long.  Then I leap out the door and pound the pavement until I am completely exhausted.  In other words, about a quarter of a mile.  I then can’t move for three days.

I have friends who are runners.  Impressive runners: trail racers, half-marathoners, full marathoners, high altitude sprinters.  At 7000 feet I can’t even stand up without having to pause and catch my breath.  Forget about running.  These people amaze me.  Because I (as many of you have heard me say) am training for a 5K the way most people train for a marathon.  It is a life’s goal that is going to take me most of my life to get there.  Except, of course, that my “training” is not really training at all. 

My friends give me advice.  Good advice.  They show me stretches.  They talk about posture and conservation of motion and momentum.  They say I should set a known distance and see how long it takes me to cover it.  “Run and walk it as needed,” the say, “and over time you will find yourself running more and walking less.”  Enough of my running friends have told me this that I think it must be true.  I’ve just never actually tried it.  Until recently.

Yes, that’s right.  A few days ago, I actually chose one of my favorite trails at a local park that, according to the map, is about 2 miles long.  And I ran it in… are you ready for this? 

32:44 minutes.

Now to be fair, I stopped midway through for a solid 3 minutes because my shins were killing me and I needed to stretch them out.  So if I subtract that time, I averaged about a… 15 minute mile.  And that, my friends, is why even when I am “running” I get lapped by the speedwalkers.

The interesting thing about this, though, is that it was a rather spur of the moment thing.  I needed to go for a run, and I decided that this time, this is how I was going to do it.  And yet at the same time, it did not feel like a spur of the moment thing at all.  I’ve been doing my haphazard “training” for three years now.  I’ve been hearing my friends’ advice, even though they probably think I’m ignoring them entirely.  Perhaps the last friend that said “Set a distance and run it.” finally pushed me over the edge.  Perhaps years of fermentation finally generated some action.  Perhaps I just plain had a day where I needed this particular type of distraction, where I needed to feel that strange kind of connection that occurs when you actual heed the repeated advice of your friends.

All of this makes me think of another kind of advice, another kind of fermentation, and another kind of friend.  How often do we share the word of God with another to seemingly no effect?  Or how often are we ourselves the recipient?  Perhaps you are not yet a Christian.  You hear the words, you watch others running their race, but you have not yet heeded their advice.  Or perhaps you’re already a Christian but are – as we will continually do – still growing in your faith.  Perhaps there is one particular area you’re struggling with right now, and friends around you are either knowingly or unknowingly speaking the advice you need to hear.  Perhaps you are watching someone else running a particular path you aspire to.  You want to get there, but your training seems haphazard and sporadic.

Take heart!  God is at work in all of our lives.  In those to whom we minister, and in us when we ourselves are being ministered to.  Nothing is ever wasted.  We are impacting one another more than perhaps we ever realize.  Every step, every word along the way, leads to where we are going.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

The RLT Principle

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

I call this verse the RLT Principle.  This is not to be confused with the BLT, which is a delightful deli sandwich comprised of bacon, lettuce, and tomato.  Instead, the RLT Principle stands for the Right-Left Turn Principle, and it goes something like this:  God is guiding you no matter which way you turn. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Sometimes it’s hard to hear that voice.  In fact, there are times it does not feel like we are being guided at all.  There are moments we cry out for guidance and seem to receive only silence.  But even in those moments, God is watching.  God is guiding. 

It is like a story I heard recently about a business man from China who was launching a new venture.  Someone asked him to describe the company’s strategy for this new and unknown territory.  “Strategy?”  The man replied.  “We are crossing this great river by feeling the rocks with our feet.”

Isn’t that exactly what our guiding moments feel like?    It is like we are standing on a stepping stone in the midst of a raging current praying for God to tell us which way to move.  And sometimes we receive only silence.  “Why, God, have you left me stranded here all alone?!” 

Only God hasn’t really left us stranded.  He is simply waiting for us to reach out with our foot and feel for the rock that He has placed there.

We notice God’s guidance most when we are struggling for a foothold amidst life’s raging current.  But the RLT Principle doesn’t apply only to those “Big Decision” times.  The RLT Principle applies to all the little moments, too.  The ones we don’t even think about.  The waking up, and the going to work, and the caring for family, and the Monday morning meetings, and the Friday nights off.  God’s guidance is as real in the quiet moments of everyday living as it is during the precarious river crossings.  Even when we don’t consciously choose a direction, God knows where we are headed.  “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:11).  And wherever we are going, all along the path, there is a voice telling us, “This is the way; walk in it.”

It may not be a physical voice.  In fact, it’s probably not.  But as Christians, we have the Spirit of God guiding our lives.  Even when we do not see it or hear it or even feel it, it is there.  We are being buoyed along like a wiffle ball caught in an updraft of wind.  And we are guided, like that wind-blown little ball, to wherever the Spirit of God takes us.  The wind blows wherever it pleases, Jesus told us. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8). 

Sometimes God’s guidance is floating and effortless.  Sometimes it’s a terrifying process of stepping into the unknown.  But whether we feel the gentle push of the wind or face the raging currents, we can go in confidence knowing that God is indeed guiding our lives.  Whether we turn to the right or to the left, we are being guided both by the Spirit who takes us where it pleases… and by the solid Rock Who forms our stepping stones.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Cracking, Part III

Click to read Part I or Part II.

Paul literally wrote the book on human weakness and God’s strength – or at least one of them (2 Corinthians).  But he is certainly not the only example we have.  Nor, you will be happy to know, is weakness necessarily synonymous with suffering.  The “cracks” that allow God to shine through can also come from reliance on God and adherence to his commands.  The more we rely on God, the more his strength is manifested within us.

Perhaps one of my favorite examples is on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God became evident not only to the disciples, but to the crowds around Jerusalem.  After His resurrection and shortly before His ascension, Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, the disciples were together in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon them like “tongues of fire.”  They began speaking in different languages, and the crowds outside were drawn to this strange display.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7)

The answer, of course, is that it was not really these men speaking.  It was the Spirit of God, shining through them.  The disciples were ordinary men before Jesus commanded them to follow him.  They were “sinners and tax collectors” when it was just them.  But Jesus gave them something more.  When they followed His command to wait in Jerusalem after His ascension, the result was far more than what any of them could have imagined.  For it was on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended, that the church was born.  It was on this day that men stood up for the first time to publicly testify that Jesus was the Son of God.  Only it was not just men standing up, but the very Spirit of God.

Jesus had alluded to this help from the Holy Spirit earlier when he commissioned the twelve to go throughout Israel and preach that the kingdom of heaven was near.  He warned them He was sending them out like sheep among wolves, but that they should not be afraid.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:19-20).

Again, Jesus was emphasizing not the human shell of his disciples, but the Spirit of God who would shine through them.  It was up to the disciples to go.  It was these men who needed to physically carry the message, but when the time came, it would be the Holy Spirit who would serve as the teleprompter.

Like the disciples in these two passages, we too have the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  And as the disciples demonstrated, the Holy Spirit will be manifested strongest when we rely on God and follow his commands.  We don’t have Jesus physically next to us to tell us to “wait in Jerusalem” or to “go throughout Israel”.  But we do have the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  And we have opportunities that open or close (sometimes against our wishes) to help guide us. 

God is equipping us, right now, to face whatever is before us.  He is sending us, right now, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth.  He may be telling us to wait.  He may be telling us to go.  Either way, He is teaching us the same lesson:  reliance not on ourselves, but on the Spirit of God within us.  For it is Him, and not us, that has the power to get through the path before us. 

It will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:20).

Mystery Rental

Don’t you hate it when you’re walking across a giant parking lot and suddenly realize you have no idea what your rental car looks like?

Or does that just happen to me?

Ironically enough, I was just listening to a story on the radio about the world memory champion who secured his second straight title by quickly memorizing two shuffled decks of cards. I was trying to decide how many cards I could memorize just flipping through a deck. (Three, maybe?) Perhaps if I had been paying more attention to the vehicle I was piloting than an imaginary deck of cards, I would not have found myself in this predicament a few hours later.

Fortunately, God had the foresight to have someone invent the key fob, which also doubles as an “Are you my rental car?” emergency button. (Really? My car is red? I could have sworn it was black.)

Not all challenges in life are quite so easily remedied, but no matter what the situation is, we do always have a panic button at our disposal. We can call to God and he will respond to our cries for help any time of the day or night. Even though it sometimes feels like we are hopelessly lost, and don’t even know what we’re looking for, He will guide us to the right spot. We just need to keep asking. Keep pushing the button. Keep searching.

I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from his holy mountain (Psalm 3:4).

God’s Letter to Me

I wrote a similar idea on the new resources page, but I keep thinking about it.  And thinking for me is one step short of writing.  Which brings me here.  (Lucky you.) 

One of the habits I try to uphold is to read something Christian every night before I go to bed: the Bible, a devotional, an apologetic or theological book, a Christian biography.  Some nights I read chapters; some nights, a single verse.  It’s a habit I highly recommend.  But it is also a habit I have to be careful of.  Because sometimes I can spend too many nights reading the biographies and devotionals and apologetics, and not enough nights reading the Bible. 

Christian reading is good.  It gives me different perspectives and causes me to think about scripture passages in ways I might not otherwise think of them.  It is also inspiring to read about the lives and struggles and triumphs of some of the leaders of our faith.  But I need to always remember that none of this is a substitute for actually reading the Bible.  Reading only Christian books would be a bit like talking to someone about a mutual friend when there is a letter from that friend sitting unopened on my table.  Why on earth would I do that?  Letters are meant to be read.  And re-read.  (And in this day of electronic communication, probably framed and hung on the wall to be gazed upon with awe.) 

The Bible is God’s letter to me – and to you.  Hearing second-hand perspectives from others can be helpful, but it should never stop us from reading what God has to say directly to us.  We should never leave God’s letter sitting unopened and gathering dust. 

Take some time today to read what He has to say to you.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Planning

Here’s something I need to hear, so I’m going to tell you, too:  Sometimes God has a different plan. 

My mother sometimes laments how her days often do not turn out the way she expected.  “I can have my whole day planned,” she’ll say, “and it can turn out completely different.  We’re just not in control.  We may think we are, but we’re not.”  Sometimes, I need that reminder.

With the exception of work-related items that demand it, I’m not much of a planner.  I’m one of those people that pulls out a map more to see where I’ve been than to see where I’m going.  I’d much rather just go and see what happens.  Or better yet, go with someone else who plans it all for me.  So God and I – we’re often on the same page in this regard.  I tend to go along the path He lays in the knowledge that He’s got it all planned, and with the expectation that He’ll fill me in on the critical details when I have the need to know.  But every once in a while, even I just can’t help but get a few of my own ideas.

Take, for example, this year.  I had big plans for life after graduating with my PhD.  I was already secure in a job I enjoyed, so there was no need for a hectic move to a new location, no need to work extra long hours trying to learn a new job, adjust to a new culture…after two years of a full-time job and full-time school, I was looking forward to some much anticipated down time.  As graduation passed and the new year began, I was flooded with so many exciting possibilities of how to fill my new free time that for the first time ever I actually wrote down new year’s resolutions – two full notebook pages of all the things running through my head that I wanted to do.  Now, I was going to have time!  Time to tackle the many back-burnered writing projects I wanted to try, time to travel, time to sleep, time to read something besides peer-reviewed journal articles, time to step back and just listen…

I listed.  I prioritized.  I jumped in and started.  Then just as I was beginning to make progress, my boss left.  And my year off came to a screeching halt.  In addition to my job, I was now covering my boss’ job and scrambling to keep our department afloat as we entered into our traditional busy season.  Two writing projects fell off a cliff, another had me sweating bullets at the intermittent time I could devote.  More than one weekend evaporated at the office and more than one night’s sleep was plagued with an amorphous sense of pressure.  As the months flew by, I saw everything I had been so excited to accomplish this year disappear.  Instead, I was embroiled in exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, confusion.  I still liked my job, and was learning a whole lot of new things, but the path I was running (and ‘running’ is the correct verb) was not at all what I had planned.  Certainly not what I had envisioned for my “year off.”  What went wrong??

Sometimes even our best-laid plans get diverted.  Sometimes God has something else in mind.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” He says, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).  The path we are being diverted to may not be what we planned, but that does not automatically make it wrong.  Is it disappointing?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Most definitely.  Wrong?  Maybe not.

I am not going to accomplish everything I had planned this year – not even close.  But, maybe that is okay.  Maybe that is even supposed to be the point.  Because ultimately it does not matter how much of my plan is accomplished; it matters how much of God’s plan is accomplished.  God is still in control.  And sometimes He has a different plan. 

 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Adjust

What can one learn by pet sitting a friend’s dog for two weeks?  An appreciation for one’s own dog, who is quiet and does not pee in the house, perhaps.  But, I suspect the answer is supposed to be a bit deeper than that. 

One night, early on in the visit, while “Ricky” was sitting by the door looking forlorn and my dog was making vain attempts at engaging him in play, I said: “You might as well enjoy it while you’re here, Ricky.  You’re only here for two weeks, and it’s really not that bad.  You’ve got your bed, company, food and water, frequent walks…make the most of it and before you know it you’ll be headed back home.”

Ho, ho!  How easy it was to say, and how many times have I myself been like that puppy dog, sitting by a “door,” pining for something on the other side!  How true it is that the grass is always greener just over the fence.  Why is it that we often miss the blessings immediately surrounding us because we are too caught up in thinking about what we are missing?  And perhaps more importantly, how do we fix it? 

Through his letter to the Philippians (2:14) Paul tells us 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.  And John reminds us: From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16).  Adjusting to a new situation means adjusting our thoughts to focus on those things which God wants us to focus on.  If we are busy counting our blessings, there will be less time for us to count our losses.

I have often struggled with “moving on,” feeling as though allowing my thoughts to stray from what I am missing is somehow unappreciative to where I have been.  Or as though enjoying today means I enjoyed yesterday less.  But this is not true.  Counting our current blessings does not mean we are disrespecting the past or disregarding the future.  It means we are acknowledging the new situation God has presented and acknowledging the blessings – one after another – He bestows.

We also need to do more than train ourselves towards positive thinking and acknowledging the blessings in our current situation.  We also need to act.  James admonishes those who think simply having faith is enough.  What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:14,17). We need to think the right thoughts, but we need to follow through by doing the right deeds.  God prepared in advance works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes right here, right now.

I learned quickly there is nothing like a good long romp to help an anxious dog sleep through the night, and there is nothing like taking action, become involved, reaching out to assist others to help us adjust to new situations.  We may be someplace new and scary – physically, emotionally, spiritually – but it is not new and scary to God.  As David writes, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  God put us here, right at this moment, for a reason.  It is up to us to actually take action on what He ordained for us to do.  You cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.  Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6).  In other words, take action!  Even if you are not sure what it is you are supposed to do, do something.  You may not know what will succeed, but God does.

What can one learn from watching a friend’s dog for two weeks?  Well, to start, it takes a bit of adjustment – for both of us.  But more importantly, like Ricky, we need to make the most of the situations God presents to us.  It is only for a little while, and before we know it, He will be back to take us home.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

God is like Priceline, Part II

If you’re like me, you read last month’s article and felt there was a little something missing.  What about those times when you don’t know what God is telling you to do?  When you’re faced with a decision and you have no idea which way to go?  How can you tell God, “Yes, I”ll book this trip with you” when you don’t know which trip he’s telling you to book?

I don’t have the answer.  After all, I had the question.  But I’ve come to ponder: sometimes traveling with God is not about having faith to follow where He leads.  Sometimes it’s about having faith to strike out even when it doesn’t seem as though God is leading you anywhere.

The Bible tells us to: Trust the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6).   I find it interesting that it doesn’t say he will direct us.  He is not putting us in a motorcar and taking us straight to heaven.  He is directing our path.  The motor power, apparently, must come from us.

I heard a sermon once that suggested we should “go until you get a no.”  This phrase has stuck with me.  I have found that as long as you are trying, as long as you are going, God can keep opening and closing doors.  Consider a river running its course and how it can be diverted this way and that to reach your chosen destination.  As long as it keeps moving, it will get there.  It may go this way or it may go that way, but ultimately it will end at the exact right place.

We are like that river.  There are times the direction is clear and we must trust God and go.  There are times it branches into different directions and despite our pleading for guidance, God is completely silent.  We must still trust God and go.  God controls the flow of our lives; He will lead us where we need to go.  It’s a little flippant to say there are no bad decisions.  Sometimes we do make bad decisions, but if we are truly trying to do right, God will correct our mistakes as we go.  The bigger mistake is to settle into a pool of indecision.  If we are not moving forward, God cannot divert our path.  We must keep looking, keep seeking, keep listening… in all our ways acknowledge Him…and go.

One of the popular verses in the Bible tells us that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord (Romans 8:28).  We often use this phrase to provide hope amongst doubt or to marvel at the way God brings joy out of great sorrow.  We think of Joseph, sold into slavery and rising to great power, telling his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20).”  Certainly this is applicable here.  God will use everything in our life, regardless of what path we choose, for good.  But there’s another side to this saying.  Our moments of doubt and indecision are not necessarily something bad that God will somehow use for good.  Sometimes we are placed in these moments of complete and utter indecision simply because it is good for us.  When we can’t lean on our own understanding, when we can’t list the pros and cons and find an answer, when we can’t seek wise counsel or follow a gut instinct or even receive a clear response to prayer, then we have nothing left to trust but God.  It is in these moments that He moves near us, perhaps imperceptibly, opening and closing doors.  While we anguish and decide, he is watching.  And He knows if we go this way what He will do and if we go that way what He will do and all the while we are sweating bullets wondering why he won’t just SAY something.  Just TELL me what to DO!  But He is letting us grow.  He is showing us how to lean less on our own understanding and more on Him. 

Sometimes God gives us even less than a Priceline.com itinerary.  Sometimes we have to not only put in our credit card number but actually take the trip before we figure out what the itinerary was.  His question is still the same: Will you book this trip with me? 

Sometimes faith is moving forward when we don’t even know which way forward is.  THAT is traveling with the God of priceline.com

Trust the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6)