Tag Archives: Plan

Timing is Everything

david mourns saul and jonathanThen David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our kitchen/dining room and was having an after school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she’s going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an envelope anonymous with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along the journey I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In most every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. This led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths we desired to take which God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up to us. I want to follow David’s example from this moment of his own journey, when he acknowledged and honored God’s timing.

 

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A Purposed Change of Course

Compass usage illustration
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. Revelation 17:17 (NIV)

 

Yesterday I was having coffee with my friend just as we have done every week or two for the past several years. He and I have a relationship that goes deep. We know the most intimate details of one another’s lives, and we have shared the journey with one another for a good stretch through some low valleys as well as a few mountain tops.

Over a hot cup of coffee I was sharing some things that are happening in life for Wendy and me. My friend recognized in my sharing the same thing that I have sensed in the past several months. There is a shift happening in life for Wendy and me at this point in our journey that is beyond our conscious thought or human ability to facilitate. Some of the paths we have intended to take were inexplicably closed to us, and in some cases their closure has been the source of confusion, grief, and intense sadness. Now, all of a sudden, other paths have opened up and, out of the confusion, we both have an incomprehensible peace in our hearts about this course adjustment. We can’t explain it, we didn’t see it coming, but we both recognize that it’s happening.

Wise King Solomon said, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Wendy and I have long recognized that there is a divine plan at work in our lives. We have plotted our course and headed out on paths we believed would lead us where we wanted to go and where were supposed to go, but our steps have ultimately been directed to different paths on a different course. We know that our stories and our paths are part of a larger story and purpose. We don’t always see it with our eyes, but when we experience the life shift as we have over the past several months, we both know it in our hearts.

I believe that there is a larger story being told and a greater purpose at work in this life for which our lives are but a bit part (Actually, I have come to love bit parts – but that’s a different blog post). As I read through John’s account of his vision I am struck by the parallel we’re experiencing in our lives. I read the chapters and follow along as John is led through some strange visions. I catch little pieces I recognize but I largely struggle to see clearly what they mean in the whole. Underneath it all, however, I have an incomprehensible peace in knowing that there is a story being told whose chapters were written outside of time, and there is a divine purpose unfolding in today’s headlines which lead towards a conclusion that has long been foreshadowed. For Wendy and me, our job is to walk the steps established, to press on in the course, and to play out our bit parts to the best of our gifts and abilities.

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Letting Go of My Personal Timetable

Agenda
Agenda (Photo credit: Jim Ceballos)

“The Lord has done what he predicted through me.” 1 Samuel 28:17 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I couldn’t wait to grow up. There is a natural progression of time and life, but there was something in me that wanted desperately to push everything forward. My restless, extroverted nature was always pushing the clock. I wanted to got. I wanted to move. I wanted to push things forward. Perhaps this was the result of being the youngest or perhaps there was a spiritual restlessness in me. In any event, I was always pushing the timeline to get to adulthood as quickly as possible. I graduated from high school early. I went to college early. I got married early, and I had chidren early.

Looking back on my life journey (from just over the hill), I can see the natural consequences and difficult life lessons that resulted in me trying to constantly push time and circumstances to acheive my own personal will and desires. As I’ve progressed in my journey I’ve come to a deep appreciation of God’s divine timing. I have increasingly learned the contentment required to wait for to be at peace in the moment and to wait for God to move.

In the story of David and Saul we see another stark contrast between the two men in this regard. David was anointed king as a child, but has patiently refused to push God’s hand by taking Saul’s life and stepping up the timeline to his ascension as monarch. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, especially since it resulted in years of being an outlaw and living in exile. Saul, however, was always pushing his own will. It was what got him into hot water in the first place and in today’s chapter we see that he has still not learned the lesson. His decision to consult a medium and conjure up Samuel’s spirit is just another illustration of Saul’s refusal to be content with God’s will and timing.

Today, I’m taking stock of the circumstances of my life in which I feel impatience. There are a number of them. Naming them one by one, I am choosing to let go of my will and timing. Instead, I am handing them over once more to God and entrusting them to His perfect will and divine schedule.

Perfect Timing; Respecting the Plan

Old Clock
(Photo credit: wwarby)

“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” – David (1 Samuel 24:12)

“I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” – King Saul (1 Samuel 24:20)

“Timing,” as they say, “is everything.”

When I was a young believer in high school, I had an afterschool job. My boss at this particular job became a mentor to me. He spent an early morning each week studying God’s Message, taught me disciplines critical for this faith journey, and generously provided opportunities for me that became essential to my maturity. He also had a vision of starting a consulting business based on Biblical principles, and he wanted me to be a part of it. One day while having lunch at Wendy’s he laid out his vision, asked me to consider going to business school and getting an M.B.A. with the expressed intent of joining his consulting group. As much as I desired to please him, I knew in my heart that it was not the right step to take. I went a different direction, and during college my mentor and I lost touch. I did not speak to him for many years.

For anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, you know that I chose (though I believe my steps were directed) a different path than the one my mentor wanted for me. Rather than business, I chose to become a theatre major. Fast forward past college. Rather than a consulting practice I chose to go into pastoral ministry and then into parachurch ministry in which I raised financial support to cover part of my income. In a series of events I will not take the time to share in this post, I suddenly found myself being directed away from this particular parachurch ministry with no earthly idea what my next steps would be.

As fate (a.k.a. God) would have it, one of my financial supporters was my old boss and mentor with whom I had gotten back in touch after six or so years. When I called him to let him know not to send a support check the next month as I was leaving my position he asked what my plans were. I told him I had no earthly idea what I was going to do next, but I knew I had to leave my position immediately. That afternoon he asked to meet with me and offered me the position with the consulting firm he had envisioned and discussed with me back when I was in high school. I took the position and in 2014 I will celebrate 20 years in my job. In 2005 my dear mentor and friend retired and I have been privileged and blessed to be a partner and owner of the company ever since.

I look back on this experience and it has been a life lesson to me of God’s timing. My boss had a clear vision of the path I should take and the position he wanted to hire me to fulfill. When he laid out his vision to me I knew in my heart that it was not the right path, nor the right timing. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, I now see with 20/20 hindsight how being a theatre major uniquely prepared me to be successful in the position I was hired to fill. Likewise, my experiences in six years of ministry taught me life lessons that were essential to preparing me for the role I would eventually fulfill in business.

In today’s chapter, we continue to watch as the story of David’s ascent to the throne of Israel unfolds. He was anointed as King of Israel while a young man, but he was not ready to take up the mantel of monarch. It would be 20-30 years before David would be in the position God ultimately had for him. Over those many years David would develop the experience and skills necessary for his position as King.

We also continue to see the contrast of the bookend monarchs. David refuses to take a shortcut on God’s timing. He refuses to try and make his ascent to the throne happen by killing Saul even though he appears to have justifiable reason for doing so. David wants the throne in God’s time, not his own. Saul, on the other hand, continues to pursue David despite knowing that God’s anointing has left him and gone to David. He refuses to humble himself and instead gives into fear, seeking to kill David before David wipes out his family and his legacy.

Today, I am grateful for God’s timing. I believe that there is a divine plan for me. I can look back and see it unfold. I can look forward and trust that it will continue to play out. My job is to trust God, be faithful in walking the path laid out for me today, and respect the ultimate plan.

Striving Against Divine Design

David before Saul
David before Saul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, told him what his father was planning.
1 Samuel 19:1-2a (NLT)

The story is downright Shakespearean. I’m surprised the Bard never penned his own version of the story of Saul and David. Saul is the mad king given to fits of jealous rage. David is the young anointed one whom God has chosen to succeed Saul. What’s worse, David is Saul’s son-in-law and the best friend of his first born son, Jonathan. Saul tried desperately to follow Michael Corleone’s advice and “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” but Saul’s own family members thwart his attempts to whack David.

The problem is, of course, that Saul is trying desperately to thwart God’s own purposes. Like the runaway prophet Jonah, every time Saul tries to oppose God’s will he finds himself running smack dab into it.

God’s designs and purposes are a mysterious thing, but along the journey I have experienced it enough times to know when I sense it. I have watched individuals try to accomplish their own purposes in God’s name and have seen it fail time and time again. I’ve seen individuals striving to stay far away from God while God continuously draws them to Himself. I have experienced God bringing about His purposes despite others active attempts to thwart it.

Today I am thinking hard about Saul and doing a little self-examination. In what areas of my life am I striving against God’s purposes? Where in my life am I being like Saul in my refusal to accept and surrender to God’s grand design? What areas of life to I need to stop struggling and simply  surrender?

The Long Road

from odieguru via Flickr
from odieguru via Flickr

“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. Genesis 45:4-5 (NLT)

Hindsight is always 20/20,” they say, and so I’ve found it to be true along life’s journey. There are many times I have not understood why it was my lot to wander through a dark valley until I was much further down the road. From my vantage point standing atop the next mountain I could look back to see where I had been and where the road had taken me. Then, it all came into focus.

As a young man, God gave Joseph dreams of the pinnacle he would some day reach. His older brothers would all bow down before him. There was, however, a long road  which wound through some deep, dark valleys that stood between his present and the future God had ordained for Him. I can only imagine how many times Joseph questioned why God would give him such a dream only to have him thrown into a well, sold into slavery, unjustly thrown into prison, and forgotten by those he selflessly helped. All along the way Joseph had every reason to question and complain about his life being unfair and the unjust way he’d been treated. Yet, he eventually learned that there is purpose in our pain.

Wise King Solomon said “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”

Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

If we believe that God is truly good and if we believe that Jesus is our friend, then we can trust that there is a plan for the road we are on and there is a purpose for the place on life’s road in which we find ourselves. It may feel like God is unnecessarily wounding us or allowing us to be wounded. We just don’t have the perspective to fully see it or understand it from where we are standing.

That’s why we call it a “faith journey.” Faith is the evidence of what we do not see in our momentary, finite perspective and the assurance of the pinnacle we hope to reach.

Timing is Everything

Joseph interpreting the dreams of the baker an...
Joseph interpreting the dreams of the baker and the butler, by Benjamin Cuyp, ca. 1630. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. Genesis 40:23 (NLT)

Timing is everything. Over and over again I’ve seen this simple truth bear out along life’s journey. Wise King Solomon put it best in the book of Ecclesiastes (and gave the Byrds the lyrics to their number one hit a couple millenia later):

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

The timing of Joseph’s audience with Pharaoh was not yet right and there was a reason the cup-bearer forgot to mention Joseph as requested. Despite Joseph’s series of hard knocks, there was a plan and a reason. God was working His plan to put Joseph in just the right place at just the right time to accomplish His good purpose. Despite the fact that he would have to spend more time in prison, God was looking out for Joseph in the midst of his suffering.

Today, I am thankful for where God has me. It’s not anywhere near where I thought I would be on life’s road. I have only the vaguest of ideas of God’s ultimate plan for me. Nevertheless, the story of Joseph reminds me that even the most arbitrary and negative of circumstances can be threads in a beautiful tapestry and story that God is weaving in and through me.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. I Peter 5:6 (NLT)