Thinking is Hard Work

Lazy Brain

Four years ago, hubby and I were traveling across the state of Florida on a business vaca destination. Besides the over-the-top barbecue joint we found mid-state, there was time enough on our hands to suss out a plan, a 5 Year Plan. Having recently resettled into a new groove, we realized the sands of life were shifting under our feet, so to speak and we needed to reconnoiter. In essence, our intrastate discussion formed up a barebones financial outline. The life of that skeleton was and is, God’s involvement. Would one take a trip to the bottom of the sea without air? Or a desert trek without water? Etcetera. Without factoring God, there is no wind in the sail. One proverb says that there are many plans in the heart of a person but only God’s counsel prevails. Another wise saying makes the point that people can map out a plan but it is God who directs the steps. And finally, 2 Chronicles 12 establishes the reason for the king’s evil – he didn’t prepare his heart to seek God. A simplistic definition of evil is “in opposition to good;” good takes effort and planning while “evil” moves to the lowest level or easiest path. Evil is the result of defaulting to our natural tendencies, unraveling productive effort until there is no good thing remaining. True, some inspired-by-hell plot evil but in general and as commonly reported, when (good) people do nothing, evil is the result.
So fast forward, four years in, and we have hours of preparatory labor while adjusting to the 5 year goal ever so slightly as we live day-in and day out. One actual financial acquisition is established that seemed at the time to fall into our orbit but now in hindsight, we understand it was God’s doing. That wink from God would have been very difficult to see and to move upon if we had not done the prep work in the interim. Our plan includes 5Xs this acquisition and so, mistakes being made now will be experience fodder for the other investments.
Interestingly, not only do we see our faith at work but also, God’s divine intervention. Like planting an oak tree, nothing seems to be happening  and then, when the ground erupts with a speck of green pushing through, nothing seems to be happening! Unless God nudges a different direction, faith maintains the course.
One pastor says about money, “Make as much as you can; give as much as you can; save as much as you can.” I love this philosophy because it undermines poverty and greed and laziness. Laziness often masquerades as something else; busy work, disobedience or unbelief. Like evil, laziness must be overcome by considering God. The God factor animates everything we do and without considering Him, all we do is a bit of a gamble.
Lazy brain is the result of excluding God from our calculations. Thankfully, God is not hindered by time or space and so, once He is included into our plans, time and space become tools in your bag of tricks. In truth, you cannot of yourself appropriate said tools just as a toddler cannot get online and skillfully manipulate her/his college fund… But as an adult living as a citizen of a moral universe and incorporating the Sovereign’s existence and right to rule, suddenly His abilities become your possibilities. Some unbeknown favor pushes forward at God’s direction out of our past, to meet us today. Or a realtime disastrous misstep is circumvented, protecting our future.
Unlike a democratic Republic, God needs no votes to maintain his leadership position. Nor does He need advice from mentors, constituents or followers. He has no peers unless one wants to consider the Godhead as such. Instead, He sovereignly influences people to align themselves with His purposes. Once on board His ship, you’re going places!
All things are possible to those who believe… Humans are made in God’s image. That explains a lot. Lazy brain refuses to consider the wisdom of God.
In the historical instance from 2 Chronicles, the king’s determining fault was his lack to seek… Apparently, God is not asking for moral superiority or innocence or godly perfection. It seems, intelligence, DNA, social upbringing and/or formal education have very little to do with lazy brain. Once God is sought, there is no going back to the void of ignorance. When the reality of God is considered, faith becomes the intangible instrument that moves the mind forward. Lazy brain unplugs faith. Faith without works is lifeless. It is work to think. Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. (Another from Proverbs, 6:6)
Faith is not walking on water. Faith is considering God and also, obeying His direction. Confidence is born from faith to faith. Make a plan; adjust accordingly; faith in action.

Advertisements
Standard
5 Year Plan

Reaping

Find a field. Prepare it for harvest by pulling weeds and removing rocks (to build a restraining wall, if possible). Till. Plant. Water. Pray; guard against thorns & thistles, vermin and such. Reap.

Whether or not one does this literally or at another level the premise remains. Without planning and labor, there is no definitive harvest. Reaping will occur even if one does nothing but it is the fruits of foolishness, thoughtlessness and/or hopelessness. A simplistic example might be the dinner which takes planning and labor is left unmade, the  result is reaping an empty stomach.

Now, one cannot sow what one does not have. You want watermelons but you have a packet of tomato seeds. This is where planning is a must. What do I want? Targeted reaping is a result of sowing specifics.

The ultimate harvest is eternal and with that perspective in mind, all else concedes to the eternal goal. Gardens can be a menagerie of long-term planting such as a row of fig trees or an apple orchard on the back 40. Also, it usually includes short term sowing of lettuces, radishes and other almost immediate harvests; not to mention, the visual melody of flowers and greenery positioned to make the eyes dance with delight! Imagine your herb garden within the parameters of the larger general garden or orchard of God.
Contrary to popular urban legend, God is fair. More importantly, He is willing and able to assist mankind, individually and corporately toward eternal windfalls. The purposes of God are moving toward an end… His own garden and His own harvest. His workers willing forward His plans while others do so unwittingly: His plan of the ages unfolds. Because humans are freewill individuals, there are times when our plans are at cross purposes with His Plan. Concede! Sometimes making room for pumpkins is more important than cultivating lettuce, snow-peas or even zucchini. The harsh winter ahead proves the point when pumpkins continue edible but the more fragile foods have rotted or are long since consumed. God sees the big picture. God owns the farm. God’s harvest is foremost and all mankind’s sowing, laboring, reaping falls within His field.

Do not let the doom porn folks divert you from your sowing. It’s true that humanity is like a drunk who when you try to help to his feet, he takes another step and collapses again into the gutter… This paraphrase of Martin Luther clarifies the fact that even 500 years ago in Luther’s day, civilization was unraveling or so it seemed. The common man may have wondered, ‘What is the point of trying to do good’, plan for the future, marry and give in marriage if the figurative weeds and rats and crows devour one’s efforts?
Hindsight proves that those naysayers of Luther’s time and his own struggle with despair were overcome by the godly, sowing. To this day, we continue to reap both the hearty and the diseased from that time of reformation. Life continues until God’s harvest is finished.

Pick a field! Within God’s greater field diligent efforts flourish and voila! reap a harvest. If you’ve set your heart on growing allegorical radishes, give your efforts a month or two before you see the results of your labor. A literal or figurative vineyard is your task, you say? In that case, preparation, prayer and planning are all the more important; also, patience.

Practice the keyboard… Begin that watercolor… Teach the neighborhood children how to ___________… Cultivate as friends those elusive people from church… Start that business… Buy some seeds… Tell your dear one, I love you.

Standard
Key to Happiness

Hearing from God

I read about the Monarch butterfly today. Scientists saying that they have figured out the internal compass…
There is a movie (can’t remember the name but Anne Hathaway is in it), and the main character gets caught in a time warp or perhaps, another dimension. He tries to communicate with his 10 yr old daughter and she thinks this weird interaction is a poltergeist. This portion of the story-line made me rethink how God interacts with humans. Sometimes, it is loud and clear but so otherworldly that the recipient may or may not decipher the message correctly. A dream, a thought, a key situation, a Biblical highlight or sermon which unites one’s actions with godly conviction; any or all of these methods bringing forth God’s direction. The complete spiritual apparatus is present and God’s willingness is there so why do people, God’s people and others, complain about not hearing from God?
Take yourself as an example although not as the end-all to the discussion. Sometimes, you do not respond to a voice directed at you; the panhandler on the sidewalk, a telemarketer, your child asking for the umpteenth time, your conscience… See? Made in God’s image, we share similar attributes with Him. Monotone apathetic conversation is usually tuned right out, as is whining, accusation, conspiratorial groveling, haughty and grandiose petitioning. Like the question asked by a professional marketer, what gets the Target’s attention? Psalms 10 gives us an answer. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear.

The voice of God works silently at times. And like the Monarch, God has put the benchmark concept of eternity in our understanding, although dormant as the thought of a mountainous destination in Mexico is to the caterpillar before wings form. Our personality, character, environment and situation are incorporated into the discussion we are having with God… Our soul, with thoughts and responses pinging the mind of God and vice versa. This is why character matters. How do we live when no one is looking? Do we have a front stage-back stage lifestyle that dulls godly pings? God sounding you out and your ability to hear the clarity of His reverberation is fine-tuned by you.
Character is honed by exercise… Exercising righteousness. Do the right thing; choose the high road; be selfless when the situation calls for it. When you fall short, repent asking for forgiveness and asking for strength to overcome the temptation as it re-arises (because it will).

When I lived in a Third world country for a short time, initially I was an easy touch for beggars but then, I realized I did not have enough of anything – money, food, time to give to each and every petitioner. Some weeks in, my strategy of giving changed. When people crossed my path for a handout, their requests had to dent my discriminatory armor before I would give over. For example, a woman with three small children in tow had more hope than the cigarette smoking young buck. The man at the gate that was willing to pull weeds was sure to get money compared to the oily opportunist who changed pace toward me, crossing the street when he saw me emerge from my front door.
The Holy God’s criteria are not always my own but there is similarity in that He has criteria! Surely each of those Third World petitioners had genuine need; God says He knows our need before we ask. Unlike my finite compassion, wisdom and provision, our Creator has plenty and He is very generous.

The Jewish proverbs contain working advice for those wanting to hear God’s voice and looking for His guidance. Proverb 1:23 written to the person whom desires true direction: “Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. For all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Actually, these sentences from the New Living Translation are bookends to the confusion and disaster that springs from not taking a bead from eternity’s perspective, from the Great God in Heaven who sees and knows all. In truth, God wants you to call to Him so that He can answer you, giving great and otherwise, inaccessible direction. Do you want to understand the voice of God? Like the lowly caterpillar, one must be transformed into a new creature and that, in Christ. Once metamorphosed, the journey to those heavenly mountains begins. 

Standard
Key to Happiness, Strategy

Balance

Finding the balance is important. No need to explain why balance is important to building, budgeting, planning of any sort and eating, for example because by the time you read this, surely you understand that without balance, life’s titter-totter plunges uncomfortably to one side.
Spiritually speaking (which should be addressed first because when the dust settles only the spiritual will remain), balance is obtained by pushing for the morally right side of the spectrum while resting in God’s promised grace. Easy sounding and in truth it is simple and once the threshold is crossed, spiritual equilibrium is doable. Because we remain in the physical until the trumpet sounds or we flat line, the physical/spiritual balance can be confusing if not approached correctly. Taking a bead from the Jewish Proverbs and then also, from the Gospels can lead one into a mental conundrum… if not for grace. Not your boss’s grace or your spouse’s or the guy’s you pass on the sidewalk but God’s supernatural grace given without merit, labor or even prayer on the recipient’s part. Even so, God’s grace can be petitioned for and I believe He is a Push-over when it comes to asking for His grace. Really. God loves to answer prayer and while grace applied is difficult to see in the moment, hindsight reveals its valued presence with clarity.
Having made that audacious declaration (God’s a Push-over), our subject is balance. God’s grace may become ineffectual if our meager efforts at morality are not a part of the equation. Our efforts to maintain a well-lived life are much like a drunk riding horse back; he sways this way and that until he topples from the saddle, (to adequately misquote Martin Luther). As we totter back and forth in our efforts, Grace sustains us and brings the buoyancy and balance.
When scripture counsels, take no thought of tomorrow while also encouraging, live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit we see that “thought” is required. Also. we read, let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing but we must be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares… How to give and be hospitable with out preparation is muddling to rational thought.

In truth, balance becomes an issue of the heart. Nothing is hid from the great God of Heaven. Our motives are transparent. Furthermore, how do we view God? Is He loving and a wonderful counselor or is He an egotistic dictator in our minds? Our viewpoint and how we process His character changes nothing of Who He really is but it does effect how we interact with Him and more importantly, how He interacts with us. Work backwards as if you were planning your wedding day or your own funeral or most specifically, you are planning the day in which you stand before the Bema Seat of Jesus. The big picture like a map, is before you and the smaller although pointedly significant events that effect our lives are regulated to correct places on the planning schematic. There are non issues and nonsense that may be diverting in the short-term. Weighty matters such as a betrayal, offense or misunderstanding, or a question of God’s willingness and/or ability are highlighted on your big picture. All in all, with this planner in hand you can formulate how the “day” will turnout. Grace fills in the deficiencies. Motive and genuine love for God and respect for His purposes links grace to grace; deep calling to deep. Works are rewarded. Salvation is a gift of grace while our eternal reward is effort by circumambient  grace. A life well-lived not only incorporates a world-side legacy but also, most importantly a posthumous eternal inheritance. This is why an ongoing relationship with God through His Son is so important.

Scripture which so often seems contradictory, is like a math equation that is missing a factor or two. The balance in the equation is solved when the unknown factors are revealed. The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. With that in mind, the LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. Like the Gold Standard, God’s standards are key and His grace allows mere men to be weighed in the balance and to be found more than acceptable.

Standard
5 Year Plan, Strategy, Surviving the Greatest Depression

Hope is not a Strategy?

Recognizing the truth in this statement made by CB Glick about ongoing internal Israeli settlement conflicts, Hope is Not Strategy, I am triggered into thought. The point in her title speaks volumes beyond her conclusions.

If strategy is not made up of hope and hope is definitely not a strategy then is hope even important to strategy?

Strategy, I defined as a plan; more than a bare-bones idea but not as developed as an operation. It is the blueprint from which a plan operates.

What is hope? The scriptural definition of faith commences as things hoped for… So does ‘hoped for things’ initiate faith? Hope is essential to faith. Faith is birthed in hope. Without hope, faith will not form up. And yet, hope does not necessarily lead to faith even as simply hoping does not lead to strategy. Without hope neither faith nor strategy advance. Just as it is impossible to please God without faith, it is impossible to have faith or strategy without hope. Like the first step of a tottering child, hope advances; a first link in a chain which then continues to bind the process of faith, strategy or goals to completion.

The first Biblical translation of the word ‘hope’ is recorded when Naomi says to her daughters-in-law that there is none… no hope that either women can marry one of her future sons. Here, this Hebrew word literally means “cord”. First mentions are important! The first recorded use of this Hebrew word is found in Joshua when the spies give Rahab the harlot a way of escape from the inevitable overthrow of her city. “Bind this scarlet cord…” – Literally; bound by bright red expectation. All of our expectations, dreams, agendas, strategies and even faith are connected by cord, like an umbilical cord to life. The scarlet cord was Rahab’s strategy. There was no Plan B.

When I read Jewish history of Rahab’s surviving the supernatural defeat of her community, I think she must have felt like she was caught up dream-like in superstitious reality. The community was abuzz with fearful anticipation and emotional chaos; the leaders were scrambling to no avail. For Rahab, caught up in an atmosphere of despair, a window of opportunity was discovered. She began playing a part in a significant historic event rather than being an unwilling, unfortunate statistic… The city is to be razed and all the people and animals destroyed, as per the modus operandi of God’s armies taking her city, Jericho. God’s eternal purposes were proceeding and there was no pause button. The day of reckoning arrived and there was to be no more delay. The ungodly lifestyle of the inhabitants had reached a tipping point and it was to be judged by military defeat.

Let’s assume Rahab was a pragmatic woman. More than most, she knew a few things. Her home was like a lighthouse to gossipy travelers. Her dinner table was like a newsroom; her bed, a confession booth… Just saying.
With a little conniving, maybe I can survive the battle to set-up shop once again… She hopes.

Can the reader of history, conclude that she was a pious woman? Or honorable? Or even, honest? Absolutely, no. Assuming the opposite and in spite of her deficiency toward all things holy, we understand she acted in hope.

Bingo!
Well, not quite BINGO yet.
Still, hope was the first step in winning the initial prize – survival.

Rahab’s hope was apparently like no others at the moment. Her hope led to action and her action led to strategy. A plan began to form up. Not very logical and if these spies were as fickle and corrupt as the men of Jericho, her hope was groundless. Surely there was diversionary opportunity for her fears, doubts and experience to take another more rational course but at the first diversion, faith was added to her circumstance. The germination of faith in hope and then its ongoing contact point was the bright red cord.

Blood red expectation in spite of her sin. We have no way of even guessing at what took place in her heart and mind as her surreal experience came to a close when she and her family were led from the ruins of her old life and then, adopted into the Israeli clan.

Rahab’s story of hope is our story. Seriously. The world can be on the verge of crumbling about our ears and the so-called foundations under our feet giving way, and yet, our strategy can be one initiated by hope.

Hope is not strategy but without it, there is no plan. To survive life one must have a plan. To survive judgment one must have hope; to please God, one must have faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. New Testament letter to the Hebrews 11:1

Standard
5 Year Plan, success-in-the-new-year

Success in the New Year

Prophecy should be like a road map. A living blueprint that helps us more clearly visualize God’s intended route to success. What inspiration and diversionary pitfalls will we encounter in the year ahead? How will we navigate these? And, most importantly, how should we draw from these encounters to map a fruitful tomorrow? Referencing the scripture and calibrating with the spirit’s inner compass keeps one on course; dodging impending obstacles as we proceed.
Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him. This elucidation is taken from Luke 8:17. Even so, one must remember that life is not a smorgasbord but a journey and to end well, one must not pick and choose as we proceed by our appetites. Rather, go forward by conceding to the Great God in Heaven. God already did the big thing… He sent Jesus as a vicarious atonement for our imperfection. What will He now withhold? Nada… Zip… El zero. He loves us more than anyone in the universe.
God has an exceptional appointment for those who do not exclude Him as foremost Counselor.
God’s path is not a triathlon. Press on. Do not be diverted by the clamoring from the sidelines. It’s a challenge to be sure but each course is tailored to the individual and He supplies the manual, equipment, Coach and prophetic counsel that is required for everyone to win… to wear a victor’s crown.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus. (Rev 2 & 3… and NTL 19:10)

Standard
5 Year Plan

Greatest Depression Pt 2 – Going Green

Life… your life is not static. You are going somewhere. Everything about you is in motion too whether or not you observe it to be so. History shows that you have made it thus far. Five years from now, history will again reveal how you made it to that specific spot in the scheme of things; even if you are geographically elsewhere or wealthier or poorer or healthier or dead. Events unfold, choices are made by you and for you, and viola’ – 157,852,800 moments ticked by and 5 years spent.

If these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? Jesus asked his generation this question meaning, when everything’s going okay and you choose wrong over right, what will you do when the pressure is on?

Just looking over your proverbial shoulder, you see that five years – 1827 days are behind you. Good decisions that produced immediate or long term happy results are not hidden by the misfortunes and mishaps and knuckle-headed choices you made during the last 5 years. At least, from a positive upbeat mindset, any glowing results should not be masked by the negative. However, sometimes a mere 5 years of our life-long sojourn is riddled with poor decisions, superficial choices, grievous interruptions and lack of direction and so, the result is we didn’t go 3 steps forward, two steps back but instead we are 3 steps back and none the wiser. Any highlight is shadowed by ginormous personal disasters.

The Five-Year Plan uses most everything from one’s past as a learning lesson. The politically correct Utopian model that mankind “needs to go green” is useful in that nothing is wasted of our cognizant experience. Using what worked in financial decisions, moral judgments, relationship investment and what didn’t work become learning tools in the bigger picture of life.

(I NEED ANSWERS NOW! First off, calm down; you are using up all the oxygen in the room and at the very least, we humans need oxygen to think.)
Its time to take stock of not only your last 5 years but also, to make a projected plan for the future five. Next and foremost, if your foundation is not solid – genuine – true then all the best laid plans of mice and men can and will go awry. If your spiritual compass is off then every other issue of life will be out of whack too. Like a house that has a solid foundation which in turn stabilizes the entire structure, your spirit is your foundation. Culture, religion, genetics, geography have absolutely nothing to do with your spiritual health. Like non-germinated seed represents a lifeless stone, your spirit has to be “germinated” by the Great God of heaven and hopefully not inoculated by human machinations.

Once the spiritual side of life is copacetic, meaning the foundation is in place, the house building can commence… not to be remodeled but actually erected and furnished. By going green lots of the materials are recycled, refurbished and some, totally recreated as if by magic.

Every day of which you enter into, body soul and spirit must be used to build toward your five year plan. But… that does not mean each day must have all the goals you’re striving toward implemented, directly and individually. That is to say each effort works concurrently with the others but not necessarily specifically focused-on within each and every day. For example, a person is building toward retirement but a ‘day of rest’ is soooo very important – one day out of 7; the recharge day works toward the goal but in a passive way (pardon the puns). Also, because life is not a smooth flow of water traveling through a sterile copper pipe but rather a cycle and the part we are addressing is the flow toward the Great Sea. Our passage is sometimes slow and winding but at other times obstacle strewn being similar to rapids before the waterfall. This means that the person and plan must be flexible within the journey.

Listening to the voice of God is imperative. His Plan encompasses your own plan, of course. Like a General standing on the hilltop, He sees the ground below where the battles will be fought, retrenchments accomplished, reconnoitring and strategies planned. God oversees the victories and the seeming defeats and in the end because the foundation is in Him, God sees His destiny fulfilled like so-called magic – but not magic, rather faith manifested. The heart of God responding to the heart of a soul. Deep calling unto deep.

Standard