Makenzie – 2.1 Miles Away

makenziestockerI don’t know how many of you have a physical location in which you can say your life changed forever.  As I write,  Google informs me I am 2.1 miles away from mine.

Four years ago this evening, Makenzie finished her last pirouette, landed her last leap, and smiled one last time for the camera that loved her.  Four years ago this evening, she headed home as a passenger in a car that drove the last 2.1 miles of her life to the intersection that I now mostly avoid.  Four years ago this evening, God lifted my beautiful daughter from a horrible wreckage and said, “Welcome Home.”

It is a funny thing how my human experience is now interwoven with concrete and traffic lights.  I ponder how my mind continues to bring up joyful memories and grieving feelings.  But I also praise God’s way of death for Makenzie. Instant. Unaware. Painless.  I am so very thankful that her location – where she rests – is free from all that is ugly.

So today, I choose to celebrate in the location.  Later, I will walk the lake shore that provided a beautiful backdrop for her last photo shoot.  I will sit on the dock in the place where she sat and I will venture to that intersection in which everything changed.  But I will not grieve.  I will only thank God because she is in my future and not in my past.  She is home; safe and sound in the protection and grace of her Savior, Jesus.  What more could a parent ask for.

Sleep tight, button nose.

Peace!

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Write Your Own Script – 3 questions that make your life better

I was watching an episode of The Newsroom and in it, Jeff Daniels’ character is adamant about getting a news story on air that only told half of the truth.  In the scene, Daniels gets so frustrated that his team is demanding the whole truth be told, he storms to his office and returns with pre-written scripts of what each newscaster is going to say – half truth as it was.

Does that sound like your life?  Someone else demanding that you read lines from a script that isn’t yours!  Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Church asks,

“Are you writing your own scripts, or are you living a script that someone else has written or that isn’t even yours in the first place?”

Too many people feel they have no choice in how they live their lives.  They feel they are stuck in a J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) with no options or that they not pursuing a joy-filled life.

Here are three questions to answer to help you write your own script.

In what aspects of my life do I feel useful, confident or joyful?  In everything, there are parts that are good.  Identify those parts.  Are they enough to help me write or edit my own script?  They may be the anchor in your attitude that can help you make some changes.

What is stopping me from pulling out a fresh piece of paper and starting all over?   I’m not talking about your marriage or even your job.  It may be that the fresh piece of paper is a new attitude toward what you’re already doing.  It may be that you need a perspective adjustment to see that the problem isn’t you surroundings, it’s you!  On the other hand, you may need to begin seeking employment that fits your dreams and goals.

When was the last time I asked God for wisdom and strength to write and live my own script.  I’ve always loved Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity prayer;

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

God will give you wisdom if you ask for it.  (Seriously!  It’s in the bible here).  The question now becomes, “What are you going to do with that wisdom?”

Question:  What other questions help you break-free from the tyranny of someone else’s script?

Peace,

Makenzie’s Misunderstood Bible Verse – Jeremiah 29:11 – Part 2

“‘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 (NIV)

Truthfully, this translation is not the best for this verse (see part 1).  Even though millions have it as a life verse, have used it for comfort and have placed it on everything from bumper stickers to coffee mugs, it still doesn’t capture what God is saying.

It’s Makenzie’s life verse as well but there is so much more meaning to it if you dig into the context and the original language.  In context, God has exiled the Israelites to Babylon (which is a whole ‘nother theological discussion).  He tells them to hang out, do what needs to be done, get married, build a life etc.  But at the end of 70 years, He is going to bring them back to their homeland.

The Israelites are ticked, tired and tried.  They need to know that God hasn’t abandoned them or forgotten about them.  They need some encouragement from this God who, in His love, allowed desperate hardship to uproot their entire people group.  And in comes verse 11 of Jeremiah 29:11.  Through a word of encouragement, God says to this beat up nation, “Hey!  Don’t worry.  Hang in there.   For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

God doesn’t have an individual plan for you but more importantly, He has a larger purpose for you (again, see part 1).  And, as the original language points out, God thinks good thoughts about you.  For one, they are thoughts of peace.  It is possible to be in the worst life tragedy or the most frustrating situation and still have peace!  The peace that God gives!  He doesn’t think evil on you either.  Meaning, if you feel like God has allowed destruction in your life, behind the scenes, He is working it into something good (see Romans 8:28).  He also knows what the end of the story looks like in your life and, again, it is good.  It may not be what you expect, but it is good.

Our family is experiencing this good right now.  Coming next month, it will be 3 years since the Lord danced my oldest daughter, Makenzie, to heaven.  It has been extremely hard, much of the time.  It has been a journey that I wish upon no one.  But we are seeing how even in the midst of the struggle, we have had peace.  And it is good.

So go ahead and mark up the T-shirts with Jer. 29:11.  Claim it for your confirmation or life verse.  Tattoo it on your hand.  Whatever.  God has great thoughts and a purpose for your existence.  Live fully, Love God and Laugh from your gut.  Life is worthy of that!

Peace!

Makenzie’s Misunderstood Bible Verse – Jeremiah 29:11 – Part 1

“‘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 (NIV)

I hate this verse.  No – that’s a bit strong.  I struggle with this verse.  And while many of you have this verse on t-shirts, bracelets and small magnets on the doors to your fridge, I get frustrated thinking about it!

Here’s my tension: If God has plans for me, plans that involve prosperity, hope, and protection, then what happened to God’s plans when my daughter, Makenzie died in a car accident a few years – moments – ago?  This was her life verse and motivationally so!  But what about the “not to harm you” part.  What about that, God?  And does that mean that I can goof up and step out of God’s plan and then work to get back on His plan for me?

As you can tell, I’ve battled with this verse’s language-ing until I dug deeper into its context and its original Hebrew.  I’ll spare you a theological treatise, but a better translation of Jeremiah 29:11 comes in the King James Version.  It reads,

 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Doesn’t that change the “plans” part?  Here’s what this verse is actually saying.  It does not say that God has an individual plan for your life – like a blueprint of every moment you spend on the timeline of this earth.  The Bible is clear that He does have a purpose for your life but not necessarily a specific plan.  The purpose about which God talks is for you to know Jesus and to grow to be more like Him in character and relationship.  God’s purpose for you is not based on what you do but moreso who you are.

That means that once you know that your purpose is to love God and love others, then the adventure is discovering how that purpose plays out in your life.  You are freed up to figure out how you are wired, develop those talents and gifts, and then deploy them into the lives of people around you. Part of that means that you can actually do things that you enjoy!  What a concept!

Listen, God doesn’t care what you do for a career – whether you should be an architect, doctor, teacher or pastor.  He doesn’t care what parking space you choose or which outfit you should wear today.  If it doesn’t lead you or others to sin, and if it is a wise decision, do whatever you want!   Generally, God does not have a detailed plan for your life.

So what does this verse mean then?  Stay Tuned …

Peace!