Letting Go and Letting God

The phrase “let go and let God” has been popular in Christian circles for many years.  It simply means give your problems, concerns, and worries to God and allow Him to take care of them for you.  It’s a catchy phrase–easy to say and easy to remember.  However, it’s very hard to put into practice.  More times than not, I find myself praying about a situation and then spending many hours or days trying to work out a solution on my own.  A beloved former pastor of mine calls that “picking the problem up again.”

Yesterday I read a great blog post by Pastor Tim Burton entitled “Get Rid of Self-Imposed Limitations.”  (http://readfreshmanna.blogspot.com/    January 7, 2013)  Pastor Tim addressed this very issue and his struggles with “letting go and letting God.”  In this post, Pastor Tim described a situation in which a friend confided to him before the Sunday morning church service that he had been laid off from his job and asked Tim to pray for him to find a new job.  Pastor Tim agreed to pray for his friend and provided him with the name of a contact who might be able to assist him.

Pastor Tim had been supportive and offered his friend useful information.  His sole responsibility at this point was to pray for his friend.  However, as he tried to worship, his mind kept trying to come up with solutions to assist his friend.  I could relate to Pastor Tim’s experience.  Too often, I ask God to handle a problem and then begin working out the ways God could best accomplish the task.

Pastor Tim reported that he had come up with three possible solutions when he felt God reprimand him with these words, “You are trying to solve what belongs to me. Can you see how limited your thinking is? Stop your limited thinking and turn this over to me! There are no limitations for me and you could not figure out how I will be directing his life.”  

To his credit, Pastor Tim immediately stopped interfering and stepped back to allow God to work.   This simple story illustrated to me that when I spend time trying to solve a problem that only God can solve, there are two unintended consequences: (1) I waste my time and (2) I put limits on God.

Isaiah 55:8 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”  This tells me that God has plans for me, or my friends, that I could never fathom.  If I will get out of the way and allow God to enact His plans, the results will be far better than any I could come up with on my own.

I believe that this illustration will help me to truly be faithful in letting go of the problems I bring to God and allowing God handle them in the way that He knows will be best for me and will bring Him glory.

Do you find yourself asking God to help you and then not allowing Him to work?  If so, I hope that Pastor Tim’s inspired words will bless you and help you to let go and let God.

Learning to Accept and Embrace Change

Change is something I rarely seek and often resist, but lately God has been working on me to accept and embrace change.  I’m not speaking about change that arises from boredom or the desire to do something different, but meaningful change.  Changes that leads to a better way of doing things or  spiritual or emotional growth is productive and healthy.  But, it so much easier to stick with what we know than it is to change.

Amidst several staffing changes at our church recently, my pastor said to me, “People see change as bad.  Change isn’t good or bad.  It’s just different.” I don’t think he was saying that because he felt I was resisting the changes that had taken place; however, I do believe the Holy Spirit inspired him to make that comment to me at that time.

I know that he’s right and that the changes that took place were God ordained, but I would have preferred that things had stayed the same.  I liked the people who moved on to other callings and I couldn’t envision our church without them.  While I still miss them, I have accepted that God had a plan and His plan is best.  Those who moved on are ministering in congregations that needed them and new leaders are being developed from members of our congregation. Those particular changes have provided new opportunities for growth in leadership for members of our congregation.  The new leaders have stepped up to the challenge and God is blessing their work.

I think some of my resistance to change has its roots in my childhood.  Growing up as the daughter of a Marine, I attended 6 different elementary school in four different states.  Just as we settled into a new home and a new community, Dad would get orders and we’d be off again.  My sisters and I would have to get accustomed to a new school and make new friends.  I was constantly saying good bye to old friends.  Of course, each move allowed us to meet new people and make new friends.  God used these moves to bring people into our lives that lead our family to Him and helped us grow.  He also used those changes to help me quickly become comfortable in new situations and taught me to reach out to those who are new and make them feel welcome.

I know that changes that God initiates are for His glory and my growth.  I trust that God loves me more than I love myself. The changes He wants for me will help me to become more Christ-like and to draw closer to God.  I want to not only accept those changes but learn to embrace and celebrate them.  My ultimate desire is to honor God in all that I do each day and I can only do that as I allow Him to change me and my circumstances to conform with His will.  I don’t know what changes God has planned for me in the coming months and years, but I fully trust Him and know that those changes are for my ultimate good.

Recommitting to Living Intentionally

In late February I wrote a blog about choosing “My One Word” for 2012.  I choose the word intentional and declared my intentions of “focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.”  It’s now mid-June and the year will soon be half over.  It’s time to take stock of how I’ve done, and the scorecard is not encouraging, although it is not as dismal as I thought it might be.

I previously declared my goals to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I also declared that I would spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  

Of course, as soon as you declare a course of action, it seems as if life conspires to interfere with your plans.  Shortly after writing my Intentional blog, we made an offer on a house, my brother-in-law died Bob unexpectedly, we closed on our house and moved, and we began a major renovation project.  Chaos ensued and I found myself reacting to situations rather than focusing my time and attention in productive ways.  We are now somewhat settled into the new house, we are adjusting to the big hole left in our lives by Bob’s absence, and the master bath renovation is awaiting shower doors to be complete.

It’s time to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy and my focus back on being intentional in my actions.  During this period of great distractions, I was faithful in my daily devotions.  I start each day by spending time reading the Bible and asking God to help me glorify Him in all that I do.  I think it is human nature to seek God’s help and draw closer to Him in troubled times and that was certainly true for me.   That is the positive side of the scorecard.

On the negative side, I’ve fallen back into old habits of playing solitaire and wasting time reading meaningless tripe on the Internet. I justify these time-wasting activities as stress relief; however, I am generally more stressed afterwards because nothing has been crossed off my to-do list.  I have managed to lose 4 pounds–not much for four months of denying myself bread and potatoes, but at least it is a loss and not a gain.  It probably goes without saying that I haven’t been exercising.  And I haven’t been writing.  My third novel which was to be completed by May 1 is no further along than it was in February.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  That sounds like a good plan for my life.  So, I hereby repent of my lack of living intentionally and declare that I will turn from my sin and rededicate myself to those noble goals which I set earlier this year.  For the remainder of 2012, I will live intentionally and make the most of each day and each opportunity to grow in my relationship with God and those most important in my life and to improve my health.

Living Through a Major Renovation

Steve and I moved recently into a home that, while relatively new, needed some renovations, particularly in the master bathroom.  We had hoped to have the master bath remodeled before we moved in, but for reasons beyond our control, that did not occur.  Thus, we find ourselves in the midst of a major renovation project.

Home remodeling projects are never fun, easy, or inexpensive.  We have tended to buy newer homes and have generally limited home upgrades to cosmetic changes, such as painting or changing the floor coverings.  Our largest projects prior to the current one involved converting a screened porch into an office and finishing a portion of a basement.  Neither of those projects inconvenienced us much.

Renovating the master bathroom, however, is a totally different story.  Naturally, we had to remove all of our belongings from the bathroom and relocate them to the small guest bath down the hall. Since the closet is accessed through the bathroom, we had to empty the closet.  Our clothes are distributed among the closets in the three extra bedrooms. Unfortunately, for the sake of time, we did not perform this task in any organized manner. Getting dressed in the morning requires a search through all the closets for the desired clothing.

The existing tub and shower had to be gutted.  At the end of the first day of demolition, construction dust coated every piece of furniture in the master bedroom.  That night we vacuumed the carpet, dusted the furniture, and washed the bedding.  Then we covered every inch of the bedroom with plastic drop clothes.  Again this was done without proper forethought.  I wish I had retrieved clothing I would need from the dresser, but alas I did not. At least I know where the desired items are as I fight my way through the yards of plastic covering the dresser.  The first time we had to access the answer machine on the night stand, we moved it into the guest room, as well.

More plastic is adhered to our staircase and upstairs hall.  It keeps the debris off the carpet but not off our feet. I avoid going upstairs as much as possible because I don’t like getting bits of plaster stuck to the soles of my feet.  No matter how much we sweep, we cannot get it all up.  I look forward to the day we pull the plastic up and I feel carpet under my feet again.

Remodeling is messy, it’s inconvenient, it’s time consuming, and it’s costly.  So why are we putting ourselves through this process?  We do it for the end result, of course.  We are expecting to have a beautiful master bathroom that meets our needs when the remodeling is complete.  And although it feels like the remodeling has been going on forever, the entire project should be completed in only a few weeks.  We are willing to endure a short period of unpleasantness in order to achieve the desired finished product. We look forward to the day very soon when our master bathroom will be completed to our specifications and will once again be a usable part of our home. 

As I have watched the bathroom transformation, I have been reminded of the way God moves in us to transform our hearts and reform us to be useful for His needs.  Our old bathroom was operational but it didn’t meet our needs.  The old fixtures had to be demolished and the space cleaned of all the debris before the workers could install the new fixtures.  God has to rid our lives of everything that hinders His work before we can be fully useful to Him.  Sin has to go, of course, but also bitterness, pain, and unforgiveness.  When we give those things to God, He removes them from our hearts and fills the empty spaces with His love, peace, forgiveness, and understanding.  The old has to give way to the new.  The process is often messy and painful but the end result is more beautiful than we could have imagined.

I’m looking forward to the day that my bathroom renovation is complete and even more so to the day that my personal renovation is complete and I stand in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If your life needs a renovation, Jesus Christ is the answer.

My One Word for 2012: Intentional

I have been pondering my One Word for 2012 for two months now and have finally chosen ‘Intentional’ as my word for the year.  When I began considering what my focus for the year should be, I recalled a note a co-worker wrote me upon her retirement a few years ago.  She thanked me for reminding her “to keep the important things the important things.”  I wasn’t aware that I had ever done that, but I appreciated the compliment and have tried to live up to it. Of course, I fail more often than I succeed but I keep trying.

In trying to find a word which would encompass “focusing on the important things,” I considered thoughtful, purposeful, and balanced, before deciding on intentional.  The dictionary definition of intentional is “done with intent or purpose; deliberate.” I want to live my life with purpose and be deliberate in my actions.

My goal for 2012 is to be intentional in focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.  This will require me to set priorities and take actions that will help me to accomplish my priorities.  

This year I want to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I want to intentionally choose activities that will enhance my life and my relationships rather than those that simply fill my time.

Living intentionally this year will mean that I will spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  I’m sure I will fail often–it’s so easy to fall back into old habits–but my hope is that by making a deliberate decision to live intentionally, I will move closer to my goal of focusing my attention on the truly important things in life.  As I do that I will come closer to accomplish my life goal of bringing honor and glory to God in all that I do.

Groundhog Day Reflections

 

Groundhog Day was my great-grandmother Loflin’s favorite holiday.  I have no idea why she was so fascinated with this day.  It’s really not a holiday at all, but rather a celebration.  I do remember vividly how excited Grandma Loflin would be to find out Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for the end of winter. Ironically, she died on Groundhog Day 1963.  After all these years, the arrival of February 2nd always makes me think of her.

Phil Connors and Punxsutawney Phil

In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day was made starring Bill Murray.  As soon as I heard of it, my interest was piqued and it quickly became one of my favorites.  I love watching Murray’s character, Phil Connors, transform from a selfish, womanizer into a warm, caring individual.

Against his opposition, Connors is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  A major snowstorm forces the crew to spend another night in the small town.  Connors awakens to find that it is again Groundhog Day.  He is forced to relive Groundhog Day repeatedly, with seemingly no end.  He reacts initially with anger, violence, and even by committing suicide, only to reawaken to yet another Groundhog Day celebration.

Eventually Connors stops fighting his new reality and begins to change.  He uses each new Groundhog Day to learn more about the members of his news team and to fall in love with the people of Punxsutawney.  He becomes the polar opposite of what he had been.  He genuinely cares for people and goes out of his way to help others.  In fact, by the end, he is the most loved man in town.

The transformation of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day parallels the changes Christians undergo as God works to shape their lives in accordance with His Word and His plans for their lives.  Removing negative qualities and replacing them with godly characteristics is the goal of the purification process God sends our way through tests and trials.  In the book of James we are told, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:3, 4)  And in Romans 5: 3, 4 we read “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Phil Connors went through a time of suffering and testing to become a man he was meant to be.  God brings trials and tests to our lives to help us become the people he wants us to be.  If we fail the test, He brings another one our way. As we pass each test, we become more mature and take another step toward completion.  The trials refine our character and increase our hope in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It took Phil Connors a long time to grow and mature into a warm, caring man.  I pray that I respond to God much more quickly and that I allow the trials God sends my way to refine and purify me.

‘My One Word’Experiment for 2011—Closing Thoughts

Last year I heard about the “My One Word” challenge on my local Christian radio station. The idea is that instead of creating a list of resolutions, which are generally broken and long-forgotten by the time February 1st rolls around, we should choose a word to focus on for the year.  The originators of this idea refer to it as an ‘experiment.’  Their web site states that choosing one word “provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing. One word focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future.”  For more information on the My One Word experiment, you may go to their web site:  http://myoneword.org/.

For 2011, I chose “Delight” to be my word.  The scripture I focused on was “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 (NKJV).  The last three years have been challenging, and at times draining, as we faced the loss of my husband’s job and resulting long-term unemployment and the declining health of his parents.  The pressures of life had weighed heavily on me in 2009 and 2010.  I was determined to not let them steal my joy. 

I did none of the suggested exercises.  My total commitment to the exercise was to write two blogs about my word.  Yet, whenever I found myself getting bogged down by cares of the world, ‘Delight’ would pop into my mind.  Just thinking the word gave me a better perspective.  It is almost impossible to say or think the word ‘Delight’ without feeling a bit ‘delightful.’

As the year drew to a close, I once again read Psalm 37 during my devotions.  This time it was the 23rd verse that caught my attention.  It says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He DELIGHTS in every detail of their lives.”   What a joy it brought to my heart to be reminded that God delights in me and in everything that concerns me. 

I can come to God with all the details of my life and He delights in guiding me to making the best decisions and the right choices.  God will direct Steve and me as we continue to search for a new home (see January 17th post).  He will guide me to be the best employee I can be and Steve as he continues to seek direction regarding earning a living.  God cares about our marriage, our health, and our relationships.  He is delighted when I bring these things to Him and He delights in helping me.  And those thoughts fill me with ‘Delight’.

I am still praying and pondering ‘My Word’ for 2012.  I plan to make a decision this week.

Will you participate in the ‘My One Word’challenge this year?  What ‘one word’ will you focus on in 2012?