My Own Understanding

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a word game app called Wordscapes. The levels consist of a crossword grid at the top of the screen and a circle of letters (between 5 and 7, so far) at the bottom. The object of the game is to create words out of the letters within the circle and earn points and coins toward future games. I’ll confess—I’m hooked!

The game is an excellent exercise for the brain and acts as a refresher course for both spelling and vocabulary. As a writer, it’s perfect for me. Once I introduced it to Jason, he was equally intrigued. It’s now become one of our favorite things to do in our quiet time together.

My biggest problem with the game is that I lean on my own understanding. I get an idea in my mind of what I think a word is, and when it doesn’t work, I get frustrated. I see a five-letter word and falsely assume it must end in the letter “e.” Why do I think that? I don’t know, but once I do, I can’t seem to make myself explore other options.

The other thing that trips me up is when words begin with vowels. I’ll go through every combination of letters I can think of to figure out the next word, but in my attempts, I neglect to try words that begin with a vowel. I’m getting better about keeping this in mind, but it’s still a struggle.

I do the same thing in life. I get ideas of how I think things should be, and when they don’t work out the way I expect, I fall apart. I make plans, but I do not allow God to lead, so I act in my own understanding, and things become stressful and messy. I’ve learned with my word game that things go much smoother if I don’t have any preconceived notions. If I relax and enjoy the game, it’s actually enjoyable, not frustrating. However, if I try to force things to be the way I expect, I’m headed for disappointment.

I’m learning the same thing in my life, but it seems to be a slow process. I know my spiritual walk will be smoother if I allow God to direct my steps instead of taking the lead myself, but putting that knowledge into action is difficult for me. The planner in me wants to know what’s coming. The control freak in me desires to see things done her own way. And the worrier in me seems to think she knows what’s best. But the warrior in me knows the truth.

God knows our tendency to try to control things and to act in our own strength. I believe that’s why Proverbs 3:5-6 are in the Bible. They serve as our reminder that the puzzle of life is much more enjoyable if we leave the pieces in His hands and trust Him to guide us along the way. He has all the answers. He knows every bend in the road and what’s around every corner. He sees the beginning from the end and cherishes every chance to show us how much He loves us.

It’s time for us to let go of the illusion of control. We don’t know what the future holds, and we would be better off if we didn’t manipulate things to work in our favor. Yes, friends, we need to let God be God. He’s much better at solving puzzles than we will ever be.  

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

Just the Facts, Ma'am

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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
— John 2:1-11

I imagine every bride throughout the ages has had pre-wedding anxiety over the many things that could go wrong.  What if the ring bearer throws up all over the wedding rings?  What if my veil gets too close to the candles and bursts into flames?  What if my hair won't curl or my face breaks out?  What if the groom changes his mind?  Oh, the wedding what ifs!  

When I read this account in John, I'm torn between two hopes.  On the one hand, I hope the happy couple never became aware of the lack of wine.  Who needs such drama on their wedding day, right?  Mary knew.  The servants knew.  But we're left to wonder if the bridal party was aware of the predicament.  In many ways, I hope not.  Why ruin their happy day?

But, on the other hand, what better story to tell to their kids and grandkids than that of the water turned to wine during their special day?  Would it be worth the drama if everything turned out better than okay in the end?  I don't know.  But I don't want to focus on the bride and groom today anyway (sorry Cana couple).  I want to take a quick look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Look at the simplicity of Mary's statement. "They have no wine." I often get frustrated with Jason because he insists on giving me nothing more than "man details."  He'll take a phone message for me and say, "Your mom called."  That's it.  That's all he'll say until I pepper him with more questions.  "What did she want?  Does she need me to call her back?  When did she call?"  Of course, each of these questions is met with more "man details."  

What did she want?  "She had a question for you."  

What was the question?  "Don't know."

Does she need me to call her back?  "I'm not sure."

When did she call?  "Earlier."  

Seriously?  I've gotten clearer answers from a Magic 8 Ball!

But, here's the thing, Jason gets equally frustrated with me because of my "woman details."  When he asks what we're having for dinner, he wants me to say, "tacos" or "meatloaf."  He doesn't want to hear the story that goes along with my decision to have said dinner option like how I was planning to have something different, but the store was out of one of the key ingredients, and I didn't feel like driving to another store, so I decided to change the plan, but then would you believe the store was out of one of those ingredients too, so I had to switch to plan C. . . (How's that for a run-on sentence!  My brain is a LONG series of run-on sentences.)

The Bible doesn't tell us enough about Mary to know if she preferred short, sweet answers or the more "flavorful" ones that paint a picture, but on this occasion, she opted for "man details."  What's the problem?  "They have no wine."  Enough said!  She didn't worry. She didn't try to solve the problem herself. She didn't even ask Jesus to do anything. ("Jesus, be a dear and conjure up some wine for this sweet couple.") No, she modeled for us the perfect formula for dealing with any problem in our lives. She told Jesus about the issue and then left it up to Him to solve it as He would.

Oh, how much simpler life would be if we would heed this lesson!  How much less stress would we have if we weren't running around frantically trying to solve all of life's problems?  What if we told Jesus the problem and then left it in His hands?  No stress.  No worry.  No drama.  Just the facts.  Mary didn't wring her hands in anxiety over the embarrassment awaiting the couple when the thirsty crowd discovered the wine was gone.  She didn't whine to Jesus how it wasn't fair for something so tragic to happen to such good people.  (I guess you could say she didn't whine about the lack of wine.) She didn't fret, fuss, or fume.  And she didn't take matters into her own hands.  After all, she knew there was nothing she could do.  The problem was beyond her power to solve.  So, she did the only thing she could--she laid out the need before the Problem-Solver and then gave orders to the servants, "Just do what He says."  

Do you have a problem today?  Is there something in your life causing you stress and anxiety?  If so, I urge you to tell it to Jesus.  He can help.  He can meet the need.  Don't waste your time and energy trying to figure it out for yourself.  Give it to God.  He excels at doing the impossible. . . and He even understands "man details."

 

Based on a chapter from my book, He's Still Working Miracles.

Doorways and Decisions (A Repost)

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Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
— Acts 16:6-7

No doubt about it, there are a couple of strange phrases in those two verses.  Did you notice them?  "And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia."  The Holy Spirit forbade preaching?   I was under the impression that preaching was a good thing.  Didn't Christ say, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel"?  As far as I can tell, that's exactly what Paul and his gang were trying to do, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't allow it.

Look at the next one:  "but the Spirit suffered them not."  In Bible times, the word "suffer" meant "allow".  So basically, it's saying that the Spirit wouldn't allow them to go to Bithynia.  But they were going there to preach.  They were trying to win souls for Christ.  They were trying to follow the great command of Christ.  Why wouldn't the Spirit let them do it?

The simple explanation is this:  it wasn't His will.  Yes, God wanted them to preach.  Yes, God wanted them to witness.  Yes, God wanted them to win souls.  He wasn't forbidding their preaching; He was forbidding their direction.  Paul and his gang were trying to head further into Asia, but God had other plans, and those plans involved a man back in Macedonia, several hundred miles in the opposite direction.

Has God ever slammed a door in your face?  It smarts, doesn't it?  We don't like to be told "no."  We pout when we don't get our own way.  After all, we have plans, goals and dreams, right?  But aren't God's plans, goals and dreams for us more important?  Yes, it's disappointing when God closes a door just when we thought things were looking up, but we know it's for our good.  The real question is, how do we respond?  I know how Paul responded.
 

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them
— Acts 16:9-10

As soon as Paul got direction from the Lord, he set out.  Notice he didn't argue with the Lord.  He didn't ask for an explanation.  He didn't try to persuade the Lord to change His mind.  He obeyed.  He gathered his things and went in the direction of Macedonia.

Did you notice what else he didn't do?  He didn't stand there staring at the closed door.  Have you ever wondered how much time we waste pursuing things that can never be?  We know God has closed the door, but we can't seem to move away from it.  We just stand there, thinking of other ways to "make it happen."  Or maybe we think if we stand there long enough, God will feel sorry for us and open the door.  Who knows? 

Unfortunately, as long as we're standing there staring at the closed door, we're not doing anything else.  If God has closed the door, it's because He has something else for us to do.  So why aren't we doing it?  It's impossible for us to stand at one door and walk through another one at the same time.  We have to make a choice.  

Paul did.  He obeyed, and the Lord worked mightily through Him.  Don't we want the Lord to work that way in us?  He can, but it's going to require something on our part.  It will require obedience.  It will mean turning away from the closed door and walking toward the open one.  And if there isn't an open one, we're told to keep doing the last thing the Lord told us to do.  When the time is right, He'll open the proper doors.  And we'll be amazed at what's awaiting us on the other side!