Putting a Purpose to my Plans

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I organized a ladies retreat we called “Refresh.” It was a perfect blend of my enjoyment in planning and pointing ladies to Jesus. But I found myself in a daily tug-of-war between prayer over the Refresh and my obsession over even the tiniest detail.  My prayers soon drifted into to-do lists. A quick reminder text later and my quiet time was derailed.

I wish my plans always had an eternal purpose.  I plan meetings and vacations.  Birthday parties and play dates. There is such a temptation to dive into my to-do list and start checking off completed tasks. Certainly organization is good. But so much energy is poured out in details and distractions I lose sight of my purpose in Christ and the need for others to see Christ in me.  As Jesus heals the sick, blind, dying and even dead his purpose is so clear. “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” Jesus says to the paralytic man in Matthew 9. The man came to Jesus for healing and received more than his ability to walk.  He was granted forgiveness.  Jesus saw to physical well being. This is what people came to him for. This is when they saw miracles and believed. But Jesus saw the spiritual ailments. The blind and anemic not in body but spirit. The plan may have been to move from town to town showing the power Jesus had over sickness. But the purpose was to show God’s power over spiritual death. To give salvation to those who loved Jesus for his compassion and healing touch and gave up their lives to follow him.

When Jesus told the man to “get up, take your mat and go home,” the entire crowd praised God. They saw the miraculous and believed in his ability. Not all would commit to a life of following him, but some would. Jesus’ plan was bring many to him. Not long after healing the paralytic man Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house.  Upon being criticized for eating with “sinners” Jesus tells them “…it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” He goes on to clarify it is not the righteous he is calling to him but the sinners. Through one miracle he drew a multitude to him. Through one act of compassion and love a crowd was moved. That God would use even the smallest of my tasks to impact many!

If I show compassion and love in the name of Jesus to even one person, God uses that to bring even more to him.  A birthday party can be a day to bring joy to someone’s life, and exemplify Jesus’ love to all who attend. A vacation can provide a sweet reminder of the importance of family. A ladies’ retreat can provide a place where many women are forever changed in their walk with God.  When I say “today or tomorrow I will go to this or that city,  spend a year there, carry on business and make money” I am making my plans. But if I lift my eyes off the compulsion to plan and say “if it is the Lord’s will,” I now have a purpose.

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God Spoils Me

Matthew 7:11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”

I read a book in which the author recounted a story about a man who was in the middle of a busy Christmas shopping day in downtown Chicago. He stopped to admire a glorious sunset, taken in by the melting colors of melon and blazing orange. As he lowered his gaze his eyes met a homeless woman’s and they exchanged a silent acknowledgement of the beauty. As she shuffled by he heard her whisper “God spoils me.” Simple praise. Her words of worship that the Creator of everything displays his wonders for the least of his.

How often I have felt joy sweep over me as rays of warm sunshine when God’s gifts penetrate my heart. The unexpected check in the mail when I’m down to the last penny in my account. The glimmer of hope when a wayward child hums a Christian song under his breath. The smell of summer rain, fall leaves and cozy fires in winter. But that simple joy so often evaporates under the heat of my own unhappiness and frustrations. Yes, I appreciate what God provides, both the spectacular and the subtle. But sadly I miss the mark in so many ways. Thank you God for mercy! That my ungrateful heart is no less loved by my Abba Father. That he is supremely patient with me.

Life brings earthquakes that shake the deepest peace, F5 tornadoes that obliterate happiness and Tsunamis that can overtake the most fortified faith. The world is saturated in darkness. We cannot even hope to take our next breath without saving grace. But God promises good gifts this side of heaven. Not just necessary or helpful but good gifts. We don’t give snakes and stones to our children when they ask. We supply their needs because we love our children and we are delighted when their needs are met by good gifts. And God promises more than we could even imagine out of his unlimited, boundless, unconditional love. He gives good gifts, that we see in the temporal, to provide an eternal hope. If I could see past the haze of disappointment and distraction and opened my heart to his favor what peace I would find.

My prayer is that my eyes will be lifted to Jesus, the light of the world. while standing in the very midst of loss, heartbreak and chaos. That my frantic emotions will be stilled by His quiet whisper. That I feel his strong arms grip me when my legs threaten to buckle. May I have the point of view of the bag lady when I feel as though everything dear to me is stripped away that every day on this earth I am spoiled by Almighty God.