Ski Jump Decisions

Last night my husband brought up a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad recurring subject that scares me as much and flying off an Olympic ski jump.

The one where he says we really need to think about selling our house because it’s going to cost us too much over the long-haul to live here. Whenever he raises it I either run crying from the room screaming “Over my dead body!”, or cover my ears, shut my eyes and singing “LALALALALA”.  It’s not a decision I want to face.

Last year our daughter and new son-in-law also had a big decision to make.  Maggie had applied to grad school and had the mixed blessing of getting into every school she applied to.  It blew us away.  Who knew?  So it came down to a decision between John’s Hopkins (stay in D.C.), London School of Economics (go), and Berkley (go).

What’s a decision you’re facing right now?  Leave your job?  Go back to school?  Stay in a relationship you’re afraid is unhealthy?  Move? Continue reading

Prayer Failure “So that…”

I understand prayer about as well as I understand car repair.  That is to say I might recognize some of the bigger parts, like the engine, say.  But how the whole thing works?  It’s totally beyond me.

Still, I pray.  The illustration that has been most helpful to me in framing my prayer life is that of a small boat on a lake, tethered by a rope to the shore.  We, in the boat, would be crazy to try to make the shore move to us.  Instead, our job is to pull ourselves to the shore.  In other words, align ourselves with God’s will and pray that way.

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I’ve written before about a question that helps.  In 2 Kings 19 Hezekiah prays:

“Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.”

I was moved by Bill Hybel’s challenge to ask ourselves, “What is the ‘so that’ of our prayers?” 

It would seem like praying things “so that” God would be glorified and His kingdom would be furthered on earth would be a sure thing.  God’s will, right?  Well, apparently God and I aren’t on the same page on this one because He has been totally unpredictable in this department lately.

A few years ago I was moved by the need for clean water in the world.  I started praying about raising money for a well.

We had just bought our first stock.  Ever.

In a passionate moment of prayer I committed every penny we would earn from that stock to go towards a well so that kids in Africa could have clean water and God would be glorified.  Doesn’t that seem like a prayer God would want to answer in the affirmative?

Our stock was BP.  The oil spill happened a couple of weeks later.  We still haven’t recovered our losses.

Still, I prayed and was committed to raising money for water.  Some friends and I did a fund-raiser.

The first time I prayed and we had moderate success, but certainly not the dramatic answer I thought would honor God.  Why didn’t He want to show off?

The second time, I prayed more.  A lot.  I did prayer walks around the place where we were going to hold the event, repeatedly asking for God’s favor so that kids could have clean water.

We had about 12 people show up and we raised $135.

“LORD!” I yelled!  “What’s up with that?”

Still, I prayed.  But with a lot less gusto.

Then last Sunday, after more prayer and preparation, we did a fund-raising brunch at a nearby restaurant.  We raised more than $8000 and then had someone offer to give $15,000 more!  Two wells, not one!  Over and above.  Abundance beyond my prayer.

Why?  What was God’s “so that” in all this?

Isaiah 65:24 says “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”

Did He delay so that He could form something in me or others in this drawn out process?  So that He could teach us to trust Him more?  So that He could teach us perseverance?

I don’t know.  Prayer is still about as foreign as car repair to me, but I’m thinking maybe God’s “so that” is more important than mine.

Do you have any experience with prayer like this?

God Told Me…Maybe

Yesterday I got a call from a young friend trying to make a big decision.

And he said “God told me…” a bunch of times throughout the conversation.

I squirmed and felt just a tiny bit uncomfortable as I listened.

I’m not crazy about that phrase.  Not because I don’t think God “speaks”, but because 99% the time when I hear those particular words, what “God tells” the person seems to be rationalizing something they really, really already want to do.

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Three Words to Remember When Looking for God’s Direction

It seems like everyone we know is in the midst of making big decisions these days. As John and I were talking about our own seeking of God’s will tonight, these words I wrote last year came to mind… 

I ran into a 23-year-old friend the other day and asked how she was doing. “Being in your twenties is…awkward!” she answered.  “All these questions about what you’re going to do with your life…who you’ll be, where you’ll go…what to say ‘yes’ to.”

That same day I had coffee with a friend who said her son is wrestling with some of the same unsettledness, and she herself is in a time of transition that has raised questions about God’s direction.  She said, “I thought by this age I’d have it figured out and be cruising along!”

24 hours earlier I had had dinner with a young single friend who said, “My life looks a lot different now than I thought it would.”

Each person’s situation was different, but there was a common theme. They longed for a clear plan.

Wouldn’t it be oh so nice if God always gave detailed instructions like,

“Susan, I want you to move to 673 Elm St., Provo Utah,  join the Church-of-People-on-the-Right-Track, take the job with State Farm, (not General Mills), and order the tomato soup at Panera for lunch.”

And sometimes in the Bible God does that, like when God gives Ananias specific instructions (Acts 9:11) to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, (Love it!). But usually it’s a bit fuzzier, like in Acts 15:28 where Paul writes, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit…”

ARGH!  I want a sure thing, thank you very much!

When I’m in seasons of discernment and transition, the three words that I feel like God often whispers to me are “Open your hands”

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  • Open your hands…to release your plans – your idols, your “gotta have’s”, your picture of “perfect” in favor of God’s.  Acknowledge your dreams, but don’t clutch them.  Release them to God to change, add, refine…Clearly easier to do when you know God’s character and are starting from a place of faith in His goodness.
  • Open  your hands…to receive counsel from wise advisors who know you well and love Jesus.  But don’t clutch it either.
  • Open your hands…to use what God has put in them – your gifts, your courage, your availability.  What direction is consistent with God’s love and your wiring?
  • Open your hands…to let go of fear that you’ll “get it wrong”.  I know, I know… there are consequences to bad decisions, but God wants to be known and can redeem and redirect if we get off track.

Amazingly, when we do open our hand God fills it with His own. 

Yet I am always with you;
You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

(Psalm 73:23,24)

What has been helpful to you when making life decisions?  

What to do When you Don’t Know What to Do

I ran into a 23-year-old friend the other day and asked how she was doing. “Being in your twenties is…awkward!” she answered.  “All these questions about what you’re going to do with your life…who you’ll be, where you’ll go…what to say ‘yes’ to.”

That same day I had coffee with a fifty-something friend who said her son is wrestling with some of the same unsettledness, and she herself is in a time of transition that has raised questions about God’s direction.  She said, “I thought by this age I’d have it figured out and be cruising along!”

24 hours earlier I had had dinner with a thirty-something friend who said, “My life looks a lot different now than I thought it would.”

Each person’s situation was different, but there was a common theme.  If I were God (a job that’s apparently already taken) I’d give detailed instructions like,

“Susan, I want you to move to 673 Elm St., Provo Utah,  join the Church-of-People-on-the-Right-Track, take the job with State Farm, (not General Mills), and order the tomato soup at Panera for lunch.”

And sometimes in the Bible God does that, like when God gives Ananias specific instructions (Acts 9:11) to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, (Love it!), but often it’s a bit fuzzier, like in Acts 15:28 where Paul writes, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit…”

When I’m in seasons of discernment and transition, the three words that I feel like God often whispers to me are “Open your hands”

  • Open your hands…to release your plans in favor of God’s. Acknowledge your dreams, but don’t clutch them.  Release them to God to change, add, refine…
  • Open  your hands…to receive counsel from wise advisors who know you well, but don’t clutch it either.
  • Open your hands…to use what God has put in them, whether that seems like saying “yes” to dramatic invitations, or something that seems very small and quiet.  Respond to what God has put right in front of you.

That’s just me.  What has been helpful to you when making life decisions?  What have you sensed God whispering to you?

If you want some more thoughts on this, take a look at this post by Steven Furtick: http://www.stevenfurtick.com/personal-development/obedience-creates-opportunity/