The best laid plans…

As you may have read, I’m on a motorcycle trip. I’ve been planning this trip for some time. This kind of trip takes planning, in my opinion. It’s over 5300 miles in 18 days, including five national parks and 13 states. You have to plan what you pack and how you pack. If you want to stay within the national parks, in our case, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton, you must make reservations well in advance. It takes planning.

I did research, I looked at seemingly endless resources about things to see and the most scenic roads to travel by motorcycle. I had to plan how many miles to travel each day, taking into account the sights we wanted to see. It takes a lot of planning.

My buddy Paul and I even planned to spread the Gospel as best we could along the way, either by the way we treated those we met, helping the hurting we encountered, or just by directly sharing God’s Word with those whose hearts we sensed need to hear it.

I think we’ve done well thus far. Tomorrow will be Day 11 of our 18-day trip and Paul has nearly exhausted his supply of Gideon New Testaments and I’ve shared encouragement with over 50 people in one form or another.

What I didn’t plan on is the weather. Yes, I brought proper raingear and warm clothes. But with all the planning, I didn’t plan on the rain which has been virtually non-stop throughout our visit to Yellowstone National Park, obviously one of our prized main stops.

There are mountains in Yellowstone… I think. We never saw them. The low cloud cover hid them. There were so scenic places we would’ve loved to stop and just watch for wildlife, but the steady rain made it impractical and frustrating.

But as I sit hear on the porch of the Signal Mountain Inn in Grand Teton National Park, I am nevertheless grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to see this wonderful country and see sights that most will never see. I’m grateful for the safety God has provided throughout the trip, including protection from bison crossing the road directly in from of us. They inched closer and closer to me and having no escape, I was forced to sit motionless until they were 10 ft from me on my motorcycle.image

God has provided safety and favor… favor in holding off the rain while we waited 50 minutes for Old Faithful to erupt and favor in allowing the clouds to part so we could enjoy the astounding beauty of the Tetons.

Truly God has been the One who has been faithful… and I know I can plan on that.

James 4:13-14 NIV says:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Looking, listening, and praying…

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I was up in New Jersey for my granddaughter’s high school graduation. We gave her a couple of gifts and my wife Sharon asked me to write a couple of notes to go along with each gift. In my self-absorbed mind, she wanted me to impart some “wisdom” to the young lass. Ha!

I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to listen more and talk less. I’m searching for direction and confirmation. My ears and eyes are wide-open. And I’m hearing things from God. It’s a great thing. I’m hearing them from unlikely sources, too.

While staying in Jersey at my step-daughter’s home, I went imageupstairs to her bedroom to see what she was doing. She was talking with her brother in her bedroom and as I came in the room, I saw what appeared to be giant Post-It Notes stuck to her walls all around the room. She is chasing a God-given dream to pursue modeling, singing, and even acting. On each of these notes are different areas of the dream: one for modeling, one for singing, a giant note with a prayer list, one with the heading “The Dream Giver”, and so forth. When I saw these giant Post-It Notes I was flabbergasted! I was overwhelmed by the thought and imageprayer and purposeful planning that had gone into chasing her dream. I am in awe of God and what he is doing in her life.

As we were driving to a wonderful spot in North Jersey, the New Jersey Botanical Gardens at Skylands Mansion, I was telling her of a dream that I believe the Lord has given me, something that’s been building for a few years. She said one thing I may never forget. she said, “When God gives you a dream, the one thing I found out is that there will always be naysayers. You can’t listen to them.”image

If you have a dream, keep your ears and eyes open. You never know what you’ll see and hear.

Still looking, listening, and praying…

The Only Equation That Matters

I’m a control-freak. I know it. I don’t like it, but I know it. I prefer to think that I like my life “structured”. It’s manageable. It’s predictable. It’s controllable that way (oops, there’s that word).

I like mathematics, too. I like equations. I didn’t do well in algebra, but I still like equations. I especially like the equal sign. I like the fact that 2a + b = c, or whatever the equation happens to be.

I like science, too. I like cause and effect. If _______ happens, then ________ happens. It helps predict how things will work. Again, it’s something I can control and manage. And I like it. Did I mention that?

I was informed several years ago that children of alcoholics like highly structured lifestyles. I am a child of an alcoholic (actually of two) and I’m living proof that is true. Experts says that because the alcoholic’s life is so unpredictable and sometimes volatile and chaotic, their children crave structure and predictability. My dad was a good provider but had a volatile temper (it’s where I get mine) and the only thing you could really predict growing up was that he would have plenty to drink. My mom loved me very much, but after my parent’s divorce, would drink herself to sleep. Again, that was one thing you COULD count on.

So fast forward to adulthood and I’m a control-freak. In some ways I like that: I’m organized, I’m prepared, and I’m a planner. In some ways I don’t like it: when things are chaotic or noisy, it drives me crazy. Really crazy.

This carries over into my spiritual life. Again, I want predictability. I crave structure. I like Bible-reading plans. In January, I just finished one. I like the “spiritual disciplines”. They are structured and are designed to help train you in righteousness. However, to me, self-discipline becomes self-righteousness. My thought process becomes: “If I pray enough (or properly) or read enough or serve enough, then I become righteous, or more righteous.” It’s cause-and-effect, right? That’s why I can be legalistic. If I do ______, then I know where I stand with God. It helps me measure. It helps me predict. Worse yet, it makes me think I know where others stand with God. It makes me measure. It makes me predict.

However, I’ve discovered something that you probably already know. At least we THINK we know it. It’s this: There’s nothing else you need to add to the shed blood of Jesus Christ to get right with God or be right with God. Nothing. He is everything you need to be righteous. He is everything you need to be holy. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible reading, meditation, giving, and so forth help you know God more. They are means of growing the character of Jesus within you. They are not “Five Easy Steps to Righteousness.” They are not the things you MUST do in order to grow in Christ. Instead, they are things you feel compelled, called or drawn to do once you realize everything that Jesus has given you. There IS a difference.

It is radical. God’s grace and His love are radical. Once you experience them — REALLY experience — you will be transformed. They have the power to break every chain that binds. They have the power to set the captive free. His grace and love have the power to heal every wound. They have the power to restore and heal marriages and relationships. They bring amazing freedom. God’s grace is radical.

God’s grace is EVERYTHING. That is the Good News.

Here’s an equation to remember: JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING.*

*Although I’ve never met him, I owe a debt of thanks to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian for a book entitled by that equation and for another book, One Way Love: God’s inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. God has used them to set me and so many others free in so many ways. Check them out HERE or visit Liberate.org.