Knowing the next step is half the battle

I like plans, but I’m not very organized. So operating in a corporate environment using a workflow chart was difficult to wrap my brain around at first. I didn’t get the concept of connecting geometric shapes with squiggly lines to symbolize processes at first. It just seemed like a lot of extra work to write down a process when it was easier to remember what came next.

When you have simple processes, that’s true. But in many corporate environments, a work process can involve dozens and maybe hundreds of people and multiple departments. With a process that complicated, you need to have a standard to refer to in the moments when a project gets crazy. You need to have a road map to look at so that you can get back on track.

If you think about it, nothing is more complicated than life. So why do we attempt to get through life without some sort of plan? How do we expect to keep ourselves on track and on target without a map to refer to when we get lost?

sea-beach-holiday-vacationToday’s verses are Psalm 37:23-24.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

God doesn’t give us the whole plan for our lives all at once. Honestly, He rarely shares the entire plan with us in our lifetime. But one thing God will always provide for us is the next step.

Following Christ isn’t a chaotic mess of disorder and strife. Sure, we all have struggles, and we all have varying amounts of stress to deal with at times. But if your life is chaotic, something is wrong. God doesn’t work in chaos. That’s our enemy’s specialty. God is always clear about what He wants. It’s our hearing that’s often plugged up, and it’s usually plugged up by our own voices.

You can get as spiritual and theological about God’s will as you want, but what it comes down to in the end is doing what God says is right one step at a time. God’s will is too big and too much for us to comprehend, because it encompasses the length and breadth and depth and width of our entire lives and even aspects of our legacies. I don’t know about you, but my puny human brain couldn’t take all of that in. So I’m glad God doesn’t tell me. I think it would scare me to death.

God has a plan, but He’s only going to tell us the parts we need to know when we need to know them. That’s His right. And if we think we deserve more than that, well, we should remember whose plan it is and whose story we’re living in. So when God gives us a piece of the plan, we need to act on it right away.

Example? The first step is to trust Jesus. That’s what God wants for all of us. He wants us to make the call to follow Jesus, to trust in Christ’s sacrifice alone for our salvation. That’s the first step, and until you take that step, nothing in life will make sense. And after you take that step, well, life still won’t make much sense, but you’ll be able to see God working.

After that, the next step is to actually start following Christ. You do the things He did. Like baptism, an outward expression of an inward change. You live like He lived–loving God and loving people. Following Christ will take the rest of your life, and it will look different for different people. And, frankly, God isn’t always specific about what He expects. We’re to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God, yes, but those three things can take a variety of shapes and sizes in our lives.

So what next? That’s the question many of us face. We’ve chosen to believe in Jesus. We’ve committed to following Jesus. But what does that mean?

Honestly, you just have to get to know God better, and He’ll tell you. He’ll show you. He always does. He’ll reveal in your heart the path that you should take. He’ll open the doors for you. He’ll muddy up the roads you should avoid and straighten the roads you should walk. You won’t be able to get away from it.

So don’t worry about what’s next. Trust that God knows where you’ll end up, even if you can’t see where you’re walking. Focus on growing closer to God. Spend your time talking to Him, reading about Him, learning about Him, and He’ll show you what comes next.

What comes next is the easy part. God already has that worked out. The hard part is actually doing it.

When the only options you have are bad ones

I’ve been visiting friends in New Jersey for the past few days, and for one of our meals, we had chili. I love chili. I eat chili all year round. And I’m one of those odd ducks who likes it with sour cream and tortilla chips. Not sure why, but I do. But I ate it a different way this time–with goldfish crackers!

My friends have a toddler, so they have lots of goldfish crackers. They thought they had saltines, but all they had were the goldfish. So I thought, why not? Let’s dump some goldfish in the chili. And you know what? It was excellent!

What does that have to do with anything (other than passing on a culinary tip)? Well, sometimes in life, we don’t get the options we want. Sometimes all we have are bad options, or what seem like bad options at the time. We’ve all heard about making lemonade when life hands us lemons. But what I’ve learned about life is that sometimes even though you have to make do with an option you don’t think will work, eventually you’ll be able to look back and see how God used it to grow you.

tomato-soup-mac-n-cheeseToday’s verses are Psalm 37:23-24.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

My preference wouldn’t have been to put goldfish crackers in my chili, but it was the only option at the time. And after I tried it, I think that’s the way I’ll eat my chili from now on. Sometimes I have to make a decision in life that I don’t particularly want to make, but further down the road, I find out that decision was actually good for me. That decision made me trust God more. That decision made me develop new habits that were healthier. And as a result, I’m closer to God than I would have been.

So don’t be afraid when all you have are choices that don’t seem like fun. Life isn’t always fun, and sometimes you have to make decisions that result in more work for you later on. But work isn’t always bad, and just because your circumstances aren’t any fun right now doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you or that you’ve done anything wrong. It just means that you’re doing the best you can with the options you have, and you’re letting God work out the details. And, frankly, that’s where you’re supposed to be anyway.

So toss those goldfish crackers in your bowl of chili next time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Likewise, that decision you’re dreading? Don’t be afraid to make it. Just make the best call you can and trust God to work everything else out. The road might be rough for a while, but on the other side, you’ll be able to look back and see God at work.

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

You don’t have to be afraid of mistakes

I made a mistake yesterday. Well, actually, I made the mistake about six months ago, but in my line of work, you don’t begin to experience the consequences of it until much later. It was one of those mistakes you make without realizing it. It wasn’t intentional. If anything it was accidental. But it was still a mistake–and I made it.

I hate mistakes. I hate them so much I’m often tempted to not even take risks for the fear of making the wrong move. I don’t want to make a mistake that will hurt me or hurt others, and I’d rather stay where I am–comfortable, confident, knowledgeable–than to put that safety in jeopardy. That’s the way my perfectionist brain works.

But is that how we’re supposed to live?

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 37:23-24.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Now, I’m not saying that we should live carelessly. God has given us our lives and He’s given us resources and blessings, and we should be good stewards of all that He has given us. But by that same token, remember that He’s the one who gave it, and in just about every instance in Scripture (that I can think of) when God gives somebody something, they’re expected to give it away. The people who hold on to what God’s given them are usually looked at as disobedient or unfaithful.

Have you ever thought about that?

But there’s something in me that wants to protect what God has given me. I want to keep it safe because risking it doesn’t seem like a good way to repay Him for what He’s given me.

But God didn’t give me my resources, my finances, my gifts, my blessings so that I can bury them in a coffee can in my back yard. He gave them to me so that I could invest them in other people–and investments like that never come back with a zero balance. Not where God is concerned.

So why are we afraid? If God has given us everything we have, are we afraid that we’re going to lose it all if we use it to do what He’s asked us to do? I’m all for being responsible, but what does godly responsibility look like?

This is my opinion, but I really think culture has conditioned us to fear mistakes. Nobody wants to be wrong. Nobody wants to take a wrong turn. We have GPS so we never have to experience the humiliation of turning around. We have calculators and computers to do math for us so we don’t have to worry about our equations being wrong. The whole attitude about mistakes has even extended to parents who don’t let kids experience the consequences for the things they choose to do wrong, which is another blog post entirely but is still relevant.

Mistakes aren’t bad. Honestly, mistakes are good for us.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of “mistakes” that can wreck a life. Those aren’t mistakes. That’s sin, and there’s a big difference between the two. Mistakes can be corrected. Sin must be redeemed.

The mistake I made yesterday was stupid and careless, and I hate that I made it. Because it makes me feel stupid and careless. But you know what’s going to happen? I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m experiencing the consequences of that mistake, and I’m going to learn from it.

That’s what mistakes are good for–teaching stubborn, hard-headed perfectionists like me that I’m not always right and that sometimes I need to drop my pride and admit when I’m wrong. Because if I can do that, I can learn something.

If you’re a Christ-follower and you’re seeking God’s will in everything you do, you don’t have to worry. What does that mean practically? That means you ask Him for direction. Literally. Just ask Him. That means you read the Bible and search for an answer to your questions, expecting to find it.

If you’re living that kind of life, don’t be afraid of mistakes. God is directing your steps, and even though you might trip, you aren’t going to fall. God won’t let you.

If you remain open to your mistakes, if you are willing to be humble and learn from them, you don’t have to be afraid of anything.

I’m really dating myself, but when I was thinking about this topic, only one song kept circling my brain. Forgive the 90s era videography and listen to the words. This is the kind of life I want to live, mistakes and all.