066: How To Be Thankful In Tough Times [Podcast] – Todd Stocker.com

thankful-001Thanksgiving is a time of reflection.  Normally, we are grateful for the good things in life.  But what about the bad things.  How and why should we be thankful for difficulties?  Find out on this episode.


From my book, “Refined – Turning Pain into Purpose.”

“Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”  Jonah 1:7

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”  – Brian Tracy

The furnace sounds like a jet engine. It roars; it hisses, waiting to be fed; eager to consume anything that it is given. And it will. Linger too long in the furnace and even the Crucible meets a cruel end which enlightens an ironic purpose of the Crucible.

Protection.

Without the Crucible, the metal is doomed. Left to fight the furnace on its own, the silver and gold would be liquefied into a useless pile of slag. But within the Crucible, the Refiner can control the amount and intensity of the heat that the metal experiences. Albeit a cruel and violent tool, the Crucible protects the metal from certain uselessness if not obliteration.

Reminds me of Jonah. You know the story.  God asked Jonah to deliver a message to the evil people of Nineveh – a message revealing their sin and calling them to repentance.  Jonah gave in to his fear, hoped on a ship and sailed in the opposite direction of that wretched city.  God sent a storm to rock the boat and, fearing for their lives, the others through Jonah in the waters, thinking it was his fault.  The bible then says that the Lord provided a great fish or a whale to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:7).  Did you catch that?  God provided a whale.  When I provide someone with something it is to help them out in some way.  God provided this whale to help Jonah and not to harm him.

Without the whale, Jonah would have certainly drowned. The storm waves would have kept him under and the currents would have brought Johan to his doom.  But God’s plans rule.  There is nothing we can do to stop them.  So God used a creature of nature to swallow Jonah to protect him from certain death.   I don’t think Jonah saw it that way but nevertheless, the truth that is revealed is this; that which was intended for harm ultimately was provided for good.

As difficult as it may seem right now, the pain you’re experiencing now might be keeping you from a worst disaster down the road.  God might be setting up a roadblock in your life because the path you want to go down leads to a cliff.  It reminds me of when my son’s frisbee went out into the street.  He immediately ran after it, not thinking, not looking and not seeing the car that was motoring his way.  I happened to be standing by the street and as he ran by, I abruptly grabbed his little arm, stopping him mid-stride.  When it was all said and done he walked away with a bruised arm from my grip but he still walked away.  My firm but hurtful grip protected him from meeting face-to-grill with a 4,000-pound car. 

The concept of God hurting us to protect us is a difficult one to grasp.  In fact, this is a common objection to faith for people I speak with.  Usually, the objection begins, “If God were so good and loving how could He let (fill in the blank) happen!”  Sometimes I have an answer, especially if it is a few months down the road from the incident.  Many times, I’m left to say “I don’t know, but let me tell you what I do know.”  Then I speak about a God who is always in control and has a good purpose in mind even though we might not know what it is right now.   And that is where trust comes in. 

Robin’s young daughter, Haley was to undergo intensive brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.  The doctors told her that they the chances of survival were small and that she’d better be prepared for the possibility of Haley not to come out of the surgery.  Immediately, Robin called on people to pray for her little girl. 

A few days before the surgery, Robin sent out this prayer email:

I put two tired little girls to bed last night at 7:45. I had ‘let’ my boy go play with his friends at the auto show. So I found myself alone in a quiet house. As I often feel like doing after the girls are sound asleep and – if I’m not also wiped out next to one or both of them – I felt like getting comfortable and sharing some time with a friend. I wasn’t sure which I felt like doing but a few things came to mind. I could read a chapter in a book I have entitled “Why bad things happen to good people”, I could open up the Bible to any page and see what was in store for me that evening, or I could work on a study I’d been involved with before Haley’s diagnoses but which I have since been neglecting. I felt pulled toward the study guide.

So I got snuggled into bed, set my Bible beside me, and opened the workbook on my lap. I started reading. The words jumped off the page because it seemed to apply to our family’s current situation. Then I got to a page with a bold title. It read ‘Carrie’s Cancer’ … Could I really go on? Did I want to continue? I have a tendency to run from difficult situations. The urge was strong. But I took a deep breath and kept going. The author’s daughter had an experience with cancer when she was young. He mentioned a passage in scripture that had spoken to their family.   It was John 11:4 when Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

I felt a mixture of hope and despair,.  In a flash, I saw that this could mean two things. Either God is telling me that Haley will not die and that God’s using this trial in her life to renew His presence in your lives; or that even though she dies here on earth, she’ll live on eternally in Heaven, safe and sound and incredibly loved by the Father. Either way, they both bring me comfort. I selfishly don’t want to lose her, but I think God wants us all to know that she’s guarded and will be ok. He has her. Whether He lets her live here with us or takes her with Him, He has her. Who better to take care of that baby?!

After reading John 11:4, another verse popped into my head, Joshua 1:9 “…be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And then I flipped back a page and read Joshua 1:5 “…I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I didn’t read each word to find these passages. They leaped out at me.

Because of what it says in John 11:4, “…so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” I am sharing this experience with you. I’m hoping it will be of some encouragement to all of you who love Haley and have been praying for her. She’s going to be ok. No matter what.

There are so many tragic things happening every second of every day all around this world. There are troops suffering and dying in the cold mountains away from their homes, there are people diagnosed and dying of terminal illnesses, there are unspeakable things happening in individual homes, there are lonely and desperate people crying out in despair to God. It was an overwhelming and depressing revelation. And I wonder if there were an equal number of people praising God, lifting up His name, thanking Him. I hoped so. Before you pray for our situation, please first thank God for all the wonderful things He’s done. Whatever that is in your lives. Please, before you pray for Haley, please remember to give God praise.

God’s at work. We’re not going through this alone. And there’s a reason for this. I once wrote down what I feel is my life’s motto: “Sometimes I’ve preferred ignorance over knowledge because I often prefer bliss over chaos.” It fits me so well. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it. Just accepting of it. A couple of months ago, I read in the Bible somewhere that, if we ask for wisdom, we’d better be prepared to handle it. I’d been asking for wisdom and clarity up until that point. Then I took a step back. I’m not so sure I want to or have to know what God’s up to. Not right now. Maybe I’ll just let Him take control. It takes an incredible weight off my shoulders.

Robin’s faith in the Lord strengthened her for the upcoming trial.  She trusted that God would protect Haley, even if it meant bringing her to heaven.  She knew that the next weeks, months and years were going to be difficult and she was surrendered. 

Reminds me of the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Here were three young lads, captured by the horrid King Nebuchadnezzar and forced into slavery.  When the king demanded that everyone bow down and worship an image of his god, the three boys refused.  They were followers of the Lord.  They were devoted to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they were ready for any consequence that the king might impose on them for their disobedience. 

Angered, the king ordered that they are thrown into a raging hot furnace.  But when the king looked into the flames, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego were walking around, unbound and unharmed.  They had been protected from the blaze of the furnace.  Not only that, but an angel was accompanying them.  God was in control.  He protected them in the fire and even the King was amazed. 

There are other stories in the bible of God’s protection.  Moses leading the Israelites and being guided by God’s pillar of clouds by day and protected by His pillar of fire at night.  (Isn’t it interesting that God used FIRE to protect them).  Daniel in the Lion’s Den.  The disciples in the raging storm.  Paul escaping from angry crowds.  And all of these accounts teach the same lessons – God is in control and we can be grateful that He turns pain into purpose. 

Right now, you or someone you cherish may be facing a life-threatening situation.  Cancer that was diagnosed in late stages.  An accident that leaves you hospitalized.  A pregnancy that is deteriorating the health of both mother and child.  Whatever the alarm, God know’s how much heat it takes to accomplish His purpose and He knows how little strength you have left. 

For some reason, the fire through which you are walking is perfectly managed by God.  He knows your strength limit.  Ironic isn’t it.  When you feel at your weakest, that is actually a sign of God’s strength.

No matter how difficult the Crucible of our loss has been, my Refiner is still in control. No matter how brutal, ruthless or slow, the Crucible is an agonizing gift that is melting, molding and making me into something that my Refiner can really use.

From my book, “Refined – Turning Pain into Purpose.”

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Make Your Life Count – Todd Stocker.com

make_life_count.001[In light of the political drama currently playing out, I thought I’d repost a writing that helps shed light on character and greatness].

A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a man who had poured out his life into the lives of others.  His passion was focused on helping organizations and Christian educational institutions provide excellence in the teaching of students.  A tall man with a  gentle smile, he would often be seen stooping down to meet the gaze of a 7 year old, trying to figure out if going to school was ok.  One Wednesday, as he was golfing, he was gripped with the pains of a heart-attack and went home to heaven.

David lived his life as if everyday were his last.  He loved deeply and served graciously.  He talked gently and loved abundantly.  In short, he made his life count.

What about your life?  When the etchers chip your epitaph into the gravestone of your life, what will they write?

Many of us put wealth, status and power at the top of our list as indicators of success.  In the grand scheme of the universe, these things are fleeting.  So how can you live a life that is defined by true success?  Here are 3 pointers.

1.  Make it about others and not yourself.  We are all born with glasses turned backward.  We see ourselves as the center of the universe.  But making your life count means to flip the glasses and put others first.  Someone once said,

“The value of a man’s life is in the counting of his positive influence on others.”

2.  Make it about giving and not getting.  In our country, we have more than most people in the world.  Health, wealth and resources more than provide a quality of life that most on the globe only dream of.  Making your life count means filling the needs of those around you based on a heart of love.  That kind of heart does not expect anything in return.

3.  Make it about serving rather than self-seeking.  Today, ask yourself, “How can I serve people around me?”  “What is it that I can do for someone that is unexpected and will add value to their lives?”  Even these simple questions can make people feel loved and, in return, you are fulfilled in serving.

If you seek to make your life count, you will have the kind of life that true success defines – please God by serving others.  God even says that He sees what you do when you strive to make your life count.  (see Hebrews 6:10)

Peace!

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018: Your Purpose In Life – Discovering Why You’re On Earth – Todd Stocker.com

Finding My Purpose In LifeAt some point in our lives, most of us ask the question, “Why am I here?”  While God has the ultimate purpose for you to be in a relationship with him, how can you discover your purpose in life while here on earth?  


Show Notes:

Have you ever asked that question? The question itself comes from something inside of you, meaning, you didn’t just arbitrary start thinking, “Why am I here?  What’s my purpose?”

3 places from it comes from…

  1. Your human desire to be with or at least know your creator.
  2. Your natural, human curiosity.
  3. Your feeling of being stuck or unfulfilled in your life.

Here’s how to get an idea of what your purpose might be.  Ask three key questions:

  1. What are you passionate about?  If you were to wake up tomorrow and it were retirement, what would you find yourself doing?
  2. What are you good at?  Take some time, maybe write it down.  “I’m good at painting.  I’m good at teaching difficult ideas to other people.  If you’re struggling, ask yourself, “what have others said I’m good at?”
  3. How can these two help other people.  This is where you will find real fulfillment and joy.  Adding value to others is a secret sauce to a happy and productive life.  A secondary part to this as it applies to your work, job or career  is how can I help others in a manner that they will pay me for it.  That’s not self seeking.  It is simply a value trade.  You add value and as a result someone rewards you for the value you add.

Obviously, this is only a simple framework for a life long question.  You should go back to this question over and over to keep clarifying what you’re passionate about, what you find and others would say you’re good at, and how you can use your passion and skills to add value to others in a manner that might result in being paid for that value. 


Links:

014: How To Live Life Large – Todd Stocker.com

Live_life_large.001The world doesn’t need more people playing small. It’s time to stop hiding out and start stepping out. It’s time to stop needing and start leading. It’s time to start sharing your gifts instead of hoarding them or pretending they don’t exist. It’s time you started playing the game of life in a “big” way.  Here’s how.


PODCAST SHOW NOTES:

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Go big or Go home.” As I was thinking about out topic today of living life large, this phrase popped into my head.

Here is the origin from the originator:  “The real origin of ‘Go big or Go Home’ was as a product slogan for a motorcycle exhaust system. In the early 1990’s there was a company in Southern California that was a distributor for motorcycle parts and accessories. They started making over-sized (2” diameter) pipes for Harley’s. They were called “Porker Pipes”. As one of my jobs at the company I designed the product packaging. The slogan almost ended up as “Go Big or Go Slow” but that just didn’t work. Go Big or Go Home came across with more attitude. Everyone from the company owner on down asked the same question, “What does it mean?”. My reply was, “It didn’t mean anything”. It was just another packaging slogan for just another product. Little did I realize then, how popular it would become. My total commission for the packaging artwork (including the slogan) was $50.”

Another phrase is “YOLO”: you only live once.

The problem with both of these approaches to life is that they focus only on the now.  I used to work with high school and college students and those who adopted this kind of living usually ended up happy for about 20 minutes and then had a lifetime of regret.

“A life lived without borders is a life lived in captivity.”   Some of you may recoil at that because isn’t the essence of life total freedom … doing whatever you want.  Yeah, that’s okay, but a better way to live is living life large.

So let me explain what that means, if it isn’t about no boundaries…

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly OR  to the full.”

People get hung up on this verse saying that God wants you to be financially wealthy.  Maybe for some – but to do good work.  But that’s a limited view of what Jesus is saying.  There is so much more to life than the accumulation of money, cabins, cars and bling.

How many people who have tons are constantly looking for more?

Don’t get me wrong.  Stuff is okay.  My wife and I have been very blessed by the life we’ve created and worked hard for but it isn’t what makes life good.

Yet, living life large is a mindset more than it is a strategy.  The happiest people and the most fulfilled people are people who have a positive view of their life and others in their life.  They feel content but constantly challenge themselves to new things.  They may have tons of money or very little but they pay their bills and have what they need.

The LARGE part comes in when you are at a point of impacting others by adding value to their lives.  You should listen to the sermon series called “Happy” by Andy Stanley (see link below)

John Maxwell among others says that a persons goal should be to live outside themselves in a way that adds value to others lives.

The world doesn’t need more people playing small. It’s time to stop hiding out and start stepping out. It’s time to stop needing and start leading. It’s time to start sharing your gifts instead of hoarding them or pretending they don’t exist. It’s time you started playing the game of life in a “big” way.

So here’s a first step for you.

Ask one question, “What is holding you back from living life large?”  What obstacle is in the way?

LINKS:

Take Back Your Life!

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One Purpose Of Your Pain – Todd Stocker.com

sadness_purposeI don’t think I knew him.  Maybe I did.  Maybe he was just starting at Concordia University, St. Paul when I was finishing my stint as Campus Pastor.  Many in my circles tell me that he was a great person of life, fun, purpose and humor.  That’s what makes his drowning in a pond this weekend even more tragic.  Too young.  Too much potential.  Gone on.

Details are still emerging.  What happened is still a question.  The tragedy is close enough to me that I hurt for my friends who are left empty by his home-going.  This is where I want to help.  This is where my past informs the present.  That’s one of the purposes of tragedy in your life — to help others bump along the dark tunnel of pain just like you did, to show others that the hopelessness of the now fades into the hopefulness of the not yet.  Your loss shines perspective’s light on others going through the same thing.  

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

So I want God to use that dark chapter in my story to help give light to those just writing theirs.  When needed, I will use what God taught me in any way I can.  

Life always squashes death.  Love always soothes sadness.  In it all, God is still a loving dad, calling home those whom he pleases and walking with those whom he loves.

[Download the resource: “How To Help Those Who’ve Lost A Loved One.”]

Peace!

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Find Your Hammer

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Why is it that we tend to try to live our lives doing something we weren’t designed to do?

hammer_nailI’ve started to collect interesting crosses to hang on my wall behind my desk.  Someone gave me another just the other day.  Determined to add to the display, I grabbed a nail from my desk and decided on the new addition’s position.

I had a problem.

The other pastor was in the office next to mine, entrenched in a deep counseling conversation.  Bang, Bang, Bang wouldn’t have helped so I decided to push the nail into the wall instead of hammer it. 

I grabbed a corked coaster, set the nail and began to push.  Instantly, the nail popped through the coaster which crumbled in my hand.  Next, I tried a  heel of a stapler.  The small head of the nail cut this apart as well. Then I tried my coffee mug.  The nail simply scratched the surface as it slipped off the rounded edge. 

After three tries, I went to the hammer.  Thankfully, the pastor had completed his conversation and I pounded away, hanging the cross on the newly set nail.

It’s taken me roughly 20 years to begin to understand that I’m not a coaster, stapler or mug.  I found my “hammer” in that I’ve realized what I’m good at and what I’m not.  I’m discovering everyday how God’s wired me and I’m designing my life to use my gifts in a way that helps others and makes me come alive

What about you?

Peace!

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Redeemed

Yesterday, our church hosted a group called Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.  Their core purpose is to help people break the grips of addiction through the basic understanding that they are a child of God and that He has a purpose for their lives. 50 strong, they filled the front of our congregation, spoke testimonies of God grace and deliverance and literally brought our church to tears.

redeemed

Before their first song, one of the folks said in their testimony, “You don’t know where you are if you don’t know where you’ve been.”  We all nodded in agreement. Then they sang a song named “Redeemed.”  (Redeemed means to be retrieved or purchased back).

As their full voice choir sang the chorus, I couldn’t help but think, These people have been in places so dark that they truly know the power of redemption. They know the beauty of going from death to life and they understand the difference.

When you’ve been so lost and so broken for so long, redemption seems so out of reach.  Freedom seems unattainable and hopelessness rules the day.  But when God sends someone – a friend, a relative, a stranger – to speak words of truth or to get you help, the light of redemption is overwhelming, the love of God in Christ is breathtaking and the contentment of the Holy Spirit forces your face to cut a smile.

You have been redeemed.  You have been set free.  The chains of hopelessness, depression and death have been unlocked.  God is real and He holds out His hand of peace to you and to me.

As I drove home, I realized that while my life has never been hopeless, God is still in the business of redeeming the lost parts of my life and setting me free.

Peace!

Teeing Up Your Purpose

I’m not great at golf but I do love the game.  Maybe it’s the outdoors.  Maybe it’s the relaxed environment. Maybe it’s the calming chatter with friends.  Whatever it is, I like to play.  But after a few rounds, I tend to get bored.  So it was when I was living in Arizona in my youth.  In Arizona in the summer, golf establishments would offer killer deals just to get people out on the course.Golf_main2

One time, after a few rounds of cheap golf, my brother and I decided to turn the clubs handle up in our bags, close our eyes and pick one club with which we’d play the entire round.  I ended up with my putter.

So, yes.  Driving, chipping, hawking out of the rough (which is where I was normally) was all done with my putter.  It was the worst round I’ve ever played, even though it was  very fun.

Many of us live our lives like that round of golf.  We almost randomly pick our career or our work for the money or because our parents were in the same field.  We don’t first examine how God made us and what we like to do.  Just like a putter was not designed to be a driver, you may not be designed to be spending your hours doing what you’re doing.  Maybe that is why 70% of people describe themselves as frustrated or unsettled in their work environment.

So how do you begin getting at how you were made?  How do you discover God’s unique wiring for you?  There are many personality tests and work-style inventories you could and should take and I put a few references at the bottom of this post, but to begin, you can ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. What do I love to do?  When you’re given a free day, what do you naturally gravitate toward?  Would you immediately call friends and go play golf?  Would you write a book, work in your garage or create a spreadsheet that details and lists things?  What do you love to do?
  2. At what have others consistently said I’m good?  It’s one thing to like to sing but it’s quite another to be good at it. (ala American Idol!).  Listen to people around you.  You could even be more intentional and ask your family and friends this question: “If I was doing what I’m doing now for my job, what could you see me doing?”
  3. With what do people need help?  Ruth Stafford Peale who was the wife of the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” is credited with the quote ” Find a Need and Fill It.”  Using what you love to do and what others say you’re good at, see if there is a way that you can help others.  Helping others is the secret sauce to a happy life.  (Hey, I just made that up!).

So, are you a putter trying to be a driver?  If so, this year may be the year that you begin to transition to fulfilling how you’ve been created.  It would honor God, help others and create a deep satisfaction in your own soul.

RESOURCES:
Website that has helped me sift through my giftedness.  Make sure you sign up for Dan’s podcast as well:
48days.com

Excellent books (among others) that are simple reads and help you walk through a process of discovery:

CURE FOR THE COMMON LIFE.          LIVING THE LIFE YOU’RE MEANT TO LIVE.

Peace!

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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!

What is God’s Will for My Life?

I heard it again from someone struggling in their work.  Frustration walking the line with Bitterness, this person asked, “What is God’s will for my life?!”  The cry of millions wanting to do more but feeling lost and unfulfilled in the personal and work life.

I’ve processed that question many times.  I’ve poured over scripture looking for the verse that tells me what I’m supposed to do.  But guess what – the specifics aren’t there!  The question “What is God’s will for my life?” should be shortened to “What is God’s will?”  That’s an easier question to answer.

God’s will is that people come to know Him and be saved.  God’s will is that people would come to know that there is forgiveness, peace and love offered through Jesus and that that message is carried and delivered by us.  God’s will for your life is, if you’re a Christ-follower, that whatever you do with the hours you’ve been given, you ask and act on the question, “How can I best spread the message of Jesus today?”  That’s it.  From there, God doesn’t care what you do for a career.  It is no more holy being a pastor that it is a plumber.  It is no more holy being a worship leader than being a window washer.  God has people in every arena of life to be lights to the world.

Once we understand that, the adventure begins.  The journey of discovering how God made you (your gifts and talents), developing your passions and dreams and then deploying them through your work, family and community.

What is God’s will for your life?  It’s to love Him and to use your gifts for your fulfillment and others – all the while waking up everyday and asking “How can I best be a light to people around me?”

Peace,

My new website:

What’s Your WAKE?

I have a favorite coffee shop in St. Paul.  It’s nothing special but the building sits on the banks of the Mississippi River.  Occasionally, on my way home from work, I’ll grab a Java and stroll along the peaceful waters and watch the wildlife that dart from tree to rock to open sky.

There are barges on this portion of the river, pushing or pulling their tons-weighted, coal filled flat up north then south on it’s way to processing.  I see them.  Sometimes I wave to the weathered captains or stand reverently, admiring their power.  This day, I marveled, not at the power and size of the haul, but at the wake they left in their … well … wake.

The ship cuts in half what was forward and sends the small hills of water port and starboard quarter behind.  Small at the stern, the waves spread wide the further the ship sails until they rhythmically lap on to the banks on which I stand.

It struck me, this day, to ask myself the questions, “What wake do I leave?  When I pass by, how do my words and actions land on the banks of other peoples’ lives?  Are my waves gentle or are they  flooding?  Will people remember my passing gladly or with sorrow?  How do I want my wake to impress?”

I sip my coffee and walk back to my car, thinking about my wake.  God willing, my life leaves a wake of gentle joy.

Peace!