Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Are You Missing God's Big Plan For You?

‘How do you know?
You can’t know that for sure.’

The words came clear and crisp, right on the heel of my declaring a ‘blessing’ – ‘The Lord has big plans for you.

Coming from one who doesn’t often have much to say, they took me by surprise.

Perhaps if I wasn’t a mother, I would learn it a different way. Master the lesson God has been desperately trying to teach me.

But I am convinced that God is using my children, the ones he chose specifically for me, to mold me and shape me... to chisel away the dross that keeps building up... to reveal His truth to me and to make me more like him.

The hardest lessons come through the mistakes I’ve made. But those are the best.

Have you ever made this mistake? The mistake of implying to others that God’s big plan of grace isn’t enough? That what he has planned for them is more important than ‘Who he has planned for them? That somehow there is something that God needs for them to do?

Perhaps you haven’t. Perhaps you have always relayed the truth of the gospel in all of its glorious, beautiful simplicity. No additions. No conditions. No traditions. Nothing but the gospel... nothing but the reason Christ came. 
'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' John 3:16
'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.' John 5:24 
As I sat there pondering my son’s words, I climbed behind his eyes for a bit and tried to see things the way he did.

Within the last few months he had lost both his young, carefree, fun loving uncle who by the world’s standard had not yet found God’s big plan for his life and his ‘I’m-on-the-verge-of-my-life’ soccer mate who was just 19 when he ‘missed’ out on God’s big plan for his life.

And now here is his mom telling him that God has big plans for his life.


And with those four simple words – ‘how do you know?’ – the chiseling began.

What is God’s big plan for our lives? How do we ‘know’ what His plan is?

I think, perhaps, God likes to play ‘connect the dots’ with me. I’m just not always good at the game. But he keeps saying... look closely and you’ll see... the picture will slowly come into focus. My ‘will’ will become clear and one day... one glorious morning you will ‘see’ the big picture clearly.
''For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.'' John 6:40 
Looking at life from my son’s perspective reminded me of a conversation I had had with another young man very dear to me.

A week before my brother went missing at sea, God blessed me with a wonderful gift... an unplanned conversation that gave me a glimpse into my brother’s awareness of God in his life.

As I listened to him, I had said, ‘Carlos, God is relentlessly pursuing you; it’s up to you now to...

And then I had paused... to do what... what were my ‘good intentions’ and ‘well wishes for my brother’s future’ adding to the gospel...
  • to get your life together
  • to start living for Him
  • to go to church
  • to...

The list goes on.

Sometimes without realizing it we become stumbling blocks to those (of us) who desperately need the grace and mercy Jesus offers.

My brother didn’t need anything else. We don’t need anything else. 

In a week's time my brother was gone, and in my grief I had accused God of not giving him a chance. 

But he did have a chance. A chance to believe.

God simply wants us to believe.

To believe that before I was even born he knew me... knew I would wander from Him.

To believe he had a plan... a plan to bring me back to Him.

To believe that this plan was achieved through Christ living a righteous life... a life that I could never live, willingly suffering the punishment I deserved for my willful rebellion and offering me His clean slate...

To believe that I’m forgiven, justified and brought back to God... to know Him... my treasure and my joy... all through what Christ did for me.

To believe that God’s big plan for my life is simply to know Him.

And that is enough!

Oh, my friend, sometimes we spend so much time waiting for God’s big plan to unfold in our lives... in our children’s lives... in the lives of our loved ones... convincing ourselves that God has something for us to do for Him.

But what if...

What if we’re sending the wrong message? Inadvertently painting a misguided picture of God’s plan for our lives... like it must show up in a big, visible way or else we’re missing out.

What if God’s big plan for our lives is simply to receive His offer of grace?
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6: 28-29 
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John17: 3
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 
I love that verse, that verse about God’s plans for me, but I also think it just may be one of the most misquoted verses of all time.

The more I connected the dots the more I realized something... here on this side of eternity, not every one will be a king but everyone can know the King. And that, my friend, is huge. Bigger than any plan you can envision... a big, shining ball of hope that promises an eternal future with Him.

That night talking to my brother, I had stumbled over my words, but eventually I landed on this one simple, yet profound word – ‘respond’.

God is pursuing you with His relentless love... you simply have to respond.
'...but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' John 20: 31
'...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”Romans10:9-11

As we celebrate my brother’s life... I am sharing with you a video clip from 'Anthem Lights'... one that he shared with me... songs of redemption that had moved him in such a way that he struggled to describe it... moved him to sense anew in an indescribable manner God’s closeness to him.

I am overcome by emotion each time I listen to these songs, but I’m grateful... grateful to a God who helps me connect the dots... grateful that He mercifully gave me a glimpse of my brother’s response... grateful for His love and mercy that reaches out and says trust my plan... my big plan for you...  my plan to bring you back to me.

Grateful for each new breath that draws me deeper into him, each new opportunity to share His message of hope with you... with my children... with all those who are still desperately searching for God’s big plan for their lives.

And grateful that I can say - 'Yes, my son, I am sure. God does have a big plan for you!'

May God bless you,

Remembering Carlos

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

How To Shine When Being a Mom is Hard

It had been a long journey. My mom, my kids and I had being traveling for 12 hours, and I was looking forward to this final leg of the journey. Soon we'll be home. 

As I sat at the ferry dock, I envisioned the large, modern ferry with comfortable chairs, tables, and space enough to recline. This new, fast ferry would make the hour-long journey home as comfortable as possible. 

But as the time to board drew near, my ferry was nowhere in sight. Instead, we were asked to board what seemed to be a rickety old boat that had us packed like sardines for the ride home. 

I was not a happy camper. This was not what I signed up for. 

I visualized the rough seas and the rolling and tossing of this old ferry. As I sat there on the boat pressed up against the window, I dreaded the ride home. The journey looked a lot different than I expected. 

But do you know what? I got home an hour later, safe and sound, and although the ride was not how I had imagined it, it wasn't all that bad. In fact, it was pretty good. All in all it was a successful journey home, even if it didn't go quite as I expected.


What about you? Is your parenting journey unfolding as you expected?

Perhaps it is. Perhaps you have found a formula that works... that produces expected results from your 'I-know-how-this-works' input. 

Or maybe... you're like me. Maybe you've discovered that the only thing that compares to the challenges of mothering is the depth of your love for your children. Your love for your kids is as deep as the challenges are high. And this mothering journey is stretching you in ways you didn't envision, exposing your weaknesses and testing your mettle and faith. 

It's nothing to do with my children. They are precious, wonderful gifts from God on their way to discovering all that God created them to be. It's all about me... and my recurring expectation that things should go as I plan, and the hard lessons I'm learning when they don't. 

Yep, this mothering journey brings me to my knees. And it is there that I hear the words... '
Keep calm, my child; keep calm and shine on.'

These words fill me with renewed courage and fortitude and hope. They remind me that I'm not alone. 

You see, when I'm not quite sure what to do...  when I am convinced yet again that I am ill equipped for this journey, I simply have to look up or rather look in and remember... remember the abiding presence of God... always there... always present... always guiding me... lovingly showing me that His presence makes it possible to 
shine even when mothering is hard. 

'Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40: 34-35

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

And my friends, I'm often at that crossroad, where I desperately need to 'keep calm and shine on'. Can you relate? 

So I've come up with a simple mnemonic that helps me know what that looks like - in a practical sense. I hope it helps you as much as it has me.

At just the moment when I humble myself before the Lord, calmly admitting my own weakness and accepting His strength, I am filled anew with His power that enables me to S-H-I-N-E

Set healthy boundaries rooted in unconditional love.

When it comes to parenting, boundaries are essential to protect our children and guide them into becoming the persons God created them to be. God parents us in exactly the same way. But admittedly, some boundaries we set tend to be selfishly motivated and controlling. God reminds me to prayerfully consider my children, and lovingly set boundaries based on His word. When we set boundaries in this way, our children feel loved and secure.  

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. Proverbs 19:18 

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Consider: Have I set clear expectations for my children that are motivated by unconditional love and lovingly enforced? Do I set a godly example for my children by my response to God's 'boundaries'?

Hold the criticisms and comparisons.

When my buttons are pushed as so often happens in parenting, I often respond first and think after. But my tongue has the power of life and death and sometimes, I hurt the ones I love with demeaning or derogatory comments. Sounds harsh, but true! Am I the only one? 

Our children are created in the image of God and are each unique and special. Nothing we say should make them feel less than 'fearfully and wonderfully made'. 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Consider: Do I pause and ponder the power of my words before I react to my children? 

Imitate God - extend grace, be present, protect and guide.

When a parent surrenders to God; she teaches by her very example. 

"...you have been called to incarnate Christ in your [child's] life. This means that it is not enough for you to speak of [God's] grace; you must also be an example of it..." Paul David Tripp

Furthermore, just as God's abiding presence protects and guides us, so we too should protect and guide our children, which requires us to be fully 'present' with them - a feat that is not so easy in our (digitally) distracting world. 

Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4

Consider: Am I daily spending time in the presence of my Father - allowing His grace to transform me? Do my actions point my children to Christ?  Am I so busy and distracted that I fail to be 'present' with them? Do I take the time to listen to and talk with my child on a regular basis?

Never, ever quit - never stop believing, never stop trusting, never lose hope

Yes, we may grow weary, and we often do, but we can remember God's abiding presence, and humbly enter the sweet rest He alone offers.  

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)

Consider: Do I draw daily from God's infinite power and love, or do I give in to discouragement or selfish desires?  

Encourage, encourage, encourage.

And finally, my friends, encourage them by our words and actions. Embrace them as they are, image-bearers of our heavenly Father, searching, growing and prayerfully becoming who He has designed them to be.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, Colossians 2:2

Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2b

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Consider: When my children face the consequences of their actions, do I come alongside them and lovingly encourage them or are my actions harsh and rules-based? Do I share with them my own struggles in my walk with God and continually point them to God's all-sufficient grace?

What about you? 

Are you able to shine when parenting is hard... 
when the journey is not what you expected?  

Have you met the One who makes it all possible? 

Perhaps you have, but you have somehow lost your luster. 

I encourage you, my friends, to spend some time 
beholding the glory of His presence, 
coming alongside Him, and learning from Him.

My prayer is that as we spend time with God 
we will naturally shine in our calling as parents. 

Blessings to you, 

Recommended Resources:

I've only read a few chapters of this so far, but I'm loving it. 

Click here if you want your very own copy.

I'm on to this one next. Gospel-based parenting - just what I need.
To see more about this one, click here