Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Plan

      Life doesn't usually turn out the way we think it will. Most of my friends and I thought we'd be our in suburbia, raising a family, loving husband by our sides and surrounded by family and friends. Perhaps, if we had pursued a career, we would work for a while but only until children came along. We jokingly referred to it as the "picket fence dream."  I even have a picture on my wall of a picket fence with pink roses growing through it.
      Well, life didn't turn out that way for me. Circumstances and situations derailed my "picket fence" scenario a long time ago. Life has definitely had its ups and down, and I can truly say it has never been boring. I have done many things I never thought I'd do, ministered to types of people I never thought I'd encounter, and lived a totally unexpected life!
      Last night in Bible study, we revisited the Christmas story (I know, it's only September) and talked about it  in ways that were different from the normal telling. I found myself thinking of Mary. She must have had a normal girlhood, right up until the point where the angel showed up. From then on, there was no way her life could be the typical one that I imagine she had mapped out. From the elation of Elizabeth's acknowledgement to the agony of watching her son be crucified as a criminal, Mary lived in a world of extreme contrasts and ever-swirling emotional tides. There's no way she could have imagined all that she dealt with, both amazing and terrifying! 
      Which leads me back to my initial thought. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We can be floating along with hopes and dreams, having our ideal plan perfectly mapped out, only to encounter a tidal wave of circumstances that totally re-route us. Our situations change due to our own adjustments, our needs & wants, or the influences of others. The expedient things circumvent the plan we thought was our future and we're on a totally different path from the one we chose. 
      The only certainty in life is that there will never be total certainty!  Good or bad, change will always take place. Thank God, He has the plan under control. We don't have to be in charge or worry or fret or try to manipulate life and its challenges. We just need to be sure we're walking with the Lord as closely as we possibly can so that wherever the path goes, we know He's not only there but has already prepared the way! No circumstance or situation takes Him by surprise and nothing we can do (or don't do) will demand that He institute Plan B. His plan is perfect, complete, & always works to our benefit even if we don't see it or understand it at the time. He never deviates from it because it's His design. We can choose to submit to it willingly, or He can cause our circumstances to keep bringing us back to it, but His plan will always prevail!  
      In light of all of your challenges and opportunities of this season in your life, aren't you glad you have the assurance that God has it all under control? Live in peace and refuse to worry - it will all work out just as it was Planned from the beginning!  It's God's promise!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Power of Encouragement

  • This teenager lived alone with his father, and the two of them had a very special relationship. The son loved to play football - even though he was always on the bench, his father was always in the stands cheering. He never missed a game. This young man was still the smallest of the class when he entered high school. But his father continued to encourage him, but also made it very clear that he did not have to play football if he didn't want to. But the young man loved football and decided to hang in there. He was determined to try his best at every practice, perhaps he'd get to play when he became a senior.

    All through high school he never missed a practice nor a game, but remained a bench warmer all four years. His faithful father was always in the stands, always with words of encouragement for him. When the young man went to college, he decided to try out for the football team as a "walk-on." Everyone was sure he could never make the cut, but he did. The coach admitted that he kept him on the roster because he always puts his heart and soul to every practice, and at the same time, provided the other members with the spirit and hustle they badly needed. The news that he had survived the cut thrilled him so much that he rushed to the nearest phone and called his father. His father shared his excitement and was sent season tickets for all the college games.

    This persistent young athlete never missed practice during his four years at college, but he never got to play in a game. It was the end of his senior football season, and as he trotted onto the practice field shortly before the big play off game, the coach met him with a telegram. The young man read the telegram and he became silent. Swallowing hard, he mumbled to the coach, "My father died this morning. Is it all right if I miss practice today?" The coach put his arm gently around his shoulder and said, "Take the rest of the week off, son. And don't even plan to come back to the game on Saturday."

    Saturday arrived, and the game was not going well. In the third quarter, when the team was ten points behind, a silent young man quietly slipped into the empty locker room and put on his football gear. As he ran onto the sidelines, the coach and his players were astounded to see their faithful teammate back so soon.

    "Coach, please let me play. I've just got to play today," said the young man. The coach pretended not to hear him. There was no way he wanted his worst player in this close playoff game. But the young man persisted.

    Finally feeling sorry for the kid, the coach gave in. "All right," he said. "You can go in." Before long, the coach, the players and everyone in the stands could not believe their eyes. This little unknown, who had never played before was doing everything right. The opposing team could not stop him. He ran, he passed, blocked and tackled like a star. His team began to triumph. The score was soon tied. In the closing seconds of the game, this kid intercepted a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown.

    The fans broke loose. His classmates hoisted him onto their shoulders. Such cheering you've never heard!

    Finally, after the stands had emptied and the team had showered and left the locker room, the coach noticed that the young man was sitting quietly in the corner all alone. The coach came to him and said, "Kid, I can't believe it. You were fantastic! Tell me what got into you? How did you do it?" He looked at the coach, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Well, you knew my dad died, but did you know that my dad was blind?" The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile, "Dad came to all my games, but today was the first time he could see me play, and I wanted to show him I could do it!"
    **This touching story was passed on to me by my friend Sandra Bond. Thanks, Sandra, for reminding me of the power of encouragement! Sometimes we forget that it's just our faithful encouragement that makes the biggest difference for someone else!