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Posts Tagged ‘Decision-Making’

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 “By myself!” “By myself!” “By myself!” Numerous times each day our granddaughter asserts herself, announcing with much gusto that whatever the task, she can handle it.

But Elena just turned two. Although her confidence is high, skills are limited. When it’s time to go upstairs, “by myself” means down on all fours, one limb at a time. One hand up, and then the other. One foot up and then the other. It is a slow and laborious process.

In addition, the grown-up in her wake must be very sly about offering support. No hand on the back, or even hovering where Elena can see it. She’ll cast aside such safety precautions and announce firmly once again, “By myself!”

Child Washing Hands

Hand washing is another activity she prefers to do independently. But her attempts to pump out a dollop of liquid soap often end unsuccessfully. The soap usually lands in or around the sink—not in her hand.

And once the soap is in her palm, Elena reaches for the faucet. Forget the actual washing. If we try to help, she pulls her hands away. “By myself!” Even when she acquiesces, her scrubbing efforts leave much to be desired. Squeezing is her version.

And rinsing is another issue. “By myself” often results in enthusiastic splattering of water on dry dishes, counter, and backsplash.

spoons

Mealtimes offer more opportunities for autonomy. “By myself” means she will hold her spoon or fork as she chooses, not as the grown-ups have shown her numerous times. Elena has yet to figure out that holding a utensil at the very end of the handle is not very efficient.  (The child in the photo is not our Elena, but is demonstrating the same technique.)

Because of her unwieldy grip, Elena ends up turning the spoon upside down as it approaches her mouth. Needless to say, most of the food ends up on her chin, in her bib pocket, on her clothes, on the tray, or back in the dish.

We shake our heads and roll our eyes. Toddlers!

Then it dawns on me. Sometimes I’m not much more mature than a toddler in God’s family. I’ve been known to proclaim “by myself,” too:

  • “Yes, Lord, I need you to take care of the important matters, but I can handle the small stuff by myself. ”
  • “I’ll make this decision by myself, Lord, because—to be honest–I’m not sure I’ll like your choice.”
  • “I can decide by myself what will make me happy, Lord.”

Yep, I can be as foolish as a toddler, even though great wisdom is available to me.

way of wisdom the_t_nv

Wisdom such as:

“Start with God.

The first step in learning

is bowing down to God.

Only fools thumb their noses

at such wisdom and learning”

(Proverbs 1:7, MSG).

Ouch. But Solomon is right.  God made me; he knows the best course for me. Over and over again he has proven himself worthy of my trust — guiding my way, providing for my needs, empowering me to accomplish his plans.

If I can’t trust the One who died for me, who can I trust?

Any time I’m tempted to approach a situation or decision by myself, I need to remember:

“God always gives the best

to those who leave the choice to him”

–Selwyn Hughes

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I have foolishly asserted my independence. Help me to relinquish control to you. I’ve lived long enough to know from experience that living life by myself does not result in satisfaction. Help me become a person who turns to you first, and asks, “What do YOU want me to do, Lord?” because you are the all-wise One of the universe.  And I know the benefits of following you will far outweigh any costs.

(Photo credits:  www.motherhood.modernmom.com; http://www.childcare.oxfordcounty.ca; http://www.cleftstories.com; http://www.covedevotions2010.blogspot.com.)

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(“In all your ways acknowledge [God] and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:6, NIV)

M-m-m.  God will make my paths straight? Sounds as if he is promising a life of ease on a flat, straight course. Smooth transitions from Point A to Point B.

But I know God doesn’t work that way. Life on Easy Street can result in laziness and worthlessness.

In checking other translations of the Bible, I discovered fresh insights for this familiar verse.

Berkeley says, “He will direct your paths.”

The Douay-Rheims Bible presents a nuance of difference: “He will direct thy steps.”

New Living Translation, “He will show you what path to take.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible, “He will guide you on the right paths.”

And my personal favorite: “He’s the one who will keep you on track” – The Message.

I wonder if I could compose my own amplified version, combining all these translations? Something like: “He will direct my steps along the path that he knows is right and keep me on track.”

How glorious that our Heavenly Father cares enough to guide us so attentively. What a relief to know…

…we can trust the One who knows us  better than we know ourselves. After all, God made us.   He can be trusted to choose just the right path for each of us. “He will teach [us] his ways, so that [we] may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3).

…we don’t have to direct our own steps. In fact, “It is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). How wonderful to depend on God, who can see into the future. We certainly can’t!

…He won’t just set us off in the right direction, then leave us to our own devices. He will remain by our side, providing guidance all along the way.  Our God is all-wise; we are not.

I’m remembering a visit to the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. In back of the large home is a labyrinth of boxwood bushes, replicating the maze that was first constructed there hundreds of years ago. Children and adults alike find it hard to resist the challenge, including me.

 

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Oh, my. With my lousy sense of direction, I became hopelessly lost. Every time I thought the next corner would be the way out, a wall of greenery would greet me. What I needed was somebody with a bird’s-eye view of the path who could tell me which way to turn.

That’s exactly what we have in our Heavenly Father.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21).

And we’re talking about much more important matters than a labyrinth of bushes! We’re talking about:

  • Day-to-day choices that form our character
  • Decisions that impact our influence upon those around us
  • Selections of what church to attend, what friendships to cultivate, what activities to pursue, and more
  • Guidance for those unexpected twists and turns of life

In all these ways, “He will direct our steps along the path that he knows is right and keep us on track.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

Oh, Lord, help me to look up toward you—often! I want to walk the right path you have chosen for me, with confidence and strength, because I am trusting in you. May I turn my thoughts to you and your Word continually—so I can receive frequent instruction. And thank you for walking with me, offering support and encouragement, every step of the way. “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8b).

 

(Photo credits:  www.rockchurchofindia.org; http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.photochelter.com.)

 

 

 

 

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“Oh, my goodness! It’s gorgeous!”

My husband, Steve, had just come through the door carrying a glorious display of orchids. He had been to the silent auction at church, a fund-raiser for the scholarship fund. I had stayed home, grounded by a cold.

“Karen donated this to the auction,” he explained. “I thought you’d like it. ‘Might make you feel better.”

Karen and her husband owned a nursery business. Each Sunday she created stunning floral arrangements for the altar of our church.

I took the shallow dish, and turned it slowly to enjoy the full circumference. Dark green leaves created a frame from which the slender stems rose. Fresh, pink and white blooms draped gracefully from those stems. And small, round buds promised more beauty to come.

But even as I was admiring Steve’s gift, I was already getting nervous. Plants do not do well in my care, unless they’re the hardy-type. I had never owned an orchid before. Too fragile for me.

So, a few days later when the cold cleared out of my head, I checked online for information on orchid care. Here’s what I learned: indirect sunlight, normal to warmer-than-normal household temperature, normal to higher-than-normal household humidity, water thoroughly only when surface of medium becomes dry.

I walked through the house, looking for the perfect spot of indirect sunlight. There wasn’t one. I ended up parking the plant on the floor of the foyer, the only place where it would receive consistent, indirect light. Actually, I need to clarify further: The perfect place was in the middle of the floor. The corners were too dark.

Can you picture it? A plant. Smack-dab in the middle of the entryway floor.

Watering was another issue. How much is thoroughly? I certainly didn’t know.

I could have called Karen; ‘just never got around to it.

But perhaps I decided it wasn’t necessary. The orchid seemed to flourish. Each day I would check it, to see if the fir bark medium was dry. When watering seemed called for, I’d add flowering plant food, just the way the instructions suggested. Oh, and I’d turn the plant, too, so it would grow evenly.

For six weeks I lovingly cared for that orchid. I was so proud of how healthy it remained.

Then it was time for me to visit my parents, brother, and his family out in Texas. I left careful instructions for Steve–written out–about watering, feeding, and turning the orchid.

Several days into my visit, during one of our phone conversations, Steve asked me about the orchid.

“So, what am I supposed to do?” he asked.

I wanted to say, “WHAT?! THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!  WE WENT OVER THEM BEFORE I LEFT!” (You can read that with a bit of a huff. I was feeling huffy.)

Instead, I breathed in some extra patience and started to explain.

He interrupted.

“Even if it’s silk?” he innocently inquired.  Then he went on to explain,  “I ran into Karen after church and told her the orchid was still looking great.  She said that was because it wasn’t real. They’ve expanded their business to include silk florals now.”

So much for my blooming horticultural skills.

I had been operating under a delusion, and  wasting time, effort, and concern on something that WASN’T. EVEN. REAL.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Time has a way of slipping by. Days blur into years. Life comes to an end.

On that last day, will I be able to say I spent my time on real things of value?

Will I be able to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!…Come and share your master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21)?

 

      Oh, Lord, guide me to recognize those things that are important to you.  Turn me away from pursuits that have no real, eternal value.  I want my time and effort to be spent on worthwhile endeavors.  Life is too short to do otherwise. 

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Last Thursday I shared with you a decision-making discovery God brought to my attention while studying Acts 10:1-11:18. In that passage we read the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (a non-Jew). As a result of the apostle’s visit to this Roman centurion’s home, his entire family and many friends became Christians. (For a summary of those events, click on the link above to Part One.)

In review…

God doesn’t always connect all the dots when guiding our decisions.

Peter experienced a strange vision, and received brief instructions from the Holy Spirit. But a number of important questions were left unanswered. It appears Peter was left to connect the dots on his own.

The lesson for us seems to be: act upon what you know (from scripture), heed the inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith.

And now…

Decision-Making Discovery—Part Two:

Peter received confirmation from others that a visit to Cornelius was the right choice. (Remember, according to Jewish law, it was the wrong thing to do.)

Affirmation #1: The entourage from Cornelius knew exactly where to find him.

Peter was traveling about the country (9:32). There was no way for those messengers from Cornelius to know he was in Joppa, staying at Simon the tanner’s seaside home—except by divine intervention (v. 5).

Surely this extraordinary revelation was not lost on Peter. Events were lining up in a miraculous way. God was about to do something extraordinary.

Affirmation #2: Six Christian brothers from Joppa accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ home (10:23, 11:12).

There is no record that Peter had to cajole them. Scripture simply says, “Some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” Remember, Cornelius’ home in Caesarea was thirty miles away. This was no quick trip across town. By volunteering their time and effort, these six friends offered valuable encouragement and support.

Lessons #1 for us:  Affirmation of others can be important evidence of God’s approval.

I say can be because if we try to manipulate people’s response, if we shamelessly seek after it, that affirmation may not be reliable.

But let’s consider what happened to Peter, and learn from his experience.

Lesson #2: Step out in faith and accept the affirmation, especially if there’s any hint of God’s miracle-working ways involved. Peter’s encounter with the three messengers is our example.

Lesson #3: When a number of people tell us the same thing, it’s probable the message is accurate. Six men showed their support of Peter’s decision to visit Cornelius by going with him to Joppa. There may have been others who gave encouragement also. Scripture includes no record of opposition.

Are you puzzling over a course of action?

 

 

Do you have supporters coming alongside to offer encouragement, verification and support for a particular choice? Count them. You may be surprised how much confirmation God is presenting!

Thank you, Father, for the encouragers in my life. They have created uplift in my soul when circumstances have weighed me down.

May I remain faithful to renew my mind with the wisdom and guidance of your word. May I step out in faith each day, ready to embrace any surprises you have for me–like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Joppa! And may I rest in the confirmation you have already given. Equip me, I pray, to be a wise, encouraging support for others.

* * * * * * * * * *

What affirmation have you received as you faced uncertainty or a tough decision? Please share your experience and be a voice of encouragement for someone else!

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The story told in Acts 10 may be familiar to you. The apostle Peter was staying in Joppa, and one noontime he went to the rooftop of his host’s home to pray. Instead he fell into a trance. Three times he saw a puzzling vision of a large group of unclean animals, unlawful for Jews to eat. Yet a voice directed him to do so. Three times Peter said no. “I have never eaten anything impure,” he replied each time.

While he was still thinking about this strange dream, three men came to see him on behalf of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, stationed about thirty miles away in Caesarea. Cornelius had also been surprised by a surreal experience: an angel visitation. Not only did the heavenly visitor tell Cornelius to send for Peter, but told him the house in Joppa where the apostle was staying.

The three men found Peter, precisely where the angel had said he would be. Compelled by the Spirit, Peter went back to Caesarea with them, accompanied by six men of faith from Joppa. When the entourage arrived, they found a large group of Cornelius’ family and friends gathered. Peter preached to them, and while he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon them all!

Bernardo Cavallino - St Peter and Cornelius th...

Sometime later Peter went to Jerusalem. Jewish Christians criticized Peter because he went to the house of Gentile and ate with him—both acts unlawful for Jews. Peter explained what had happened—the angel’s visit, the vision, the timing, and the evidence of the Spirit. He ended his explanation with a rhetorical question: “If God gave them the same gift as He gave us…who was I to think I could oppose God?” (Acts 10:1-11:18).

Bible teacher extraordinaire, Anne Graham Lotz, uses this story in her book Into the Word (Zondervan, 2010) to teach us about God’s guidance. While meditating on Peter’s experiences and considering Anne’s thought-provoking questions, the Holy Spirit led me to several interesting observations. Perhaps they’ll interest you, too.

Discovery #1–God Doesn’t Always Connect All the Dots

Why didn’t God send an angel to Peter as he did to Cornelius? Why the puzzling vision?

Granted, after the vision, Peter did receive an impression from the Holy Spirit. “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (vs. 19-20). Clear instructions, but no reasons given.

Why not explain in plain terms that visiting Cornelius was the right thing to do? Why the strange dream? It seems Peter was left to connect the dots—between the cryptic vision and the Spirit’s instructions—on his own.

Perhaps God wants us to follow Peter’s example, to act upon what we know, heed those inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith. You might ask along with me: What do I know that is guiding current decisions in my life?

We have a resource that Peter did not: sixty-six books of God-breathed truth at our fingertips, the Bible. Here are several of my favorite passages about His guidance:

• “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).

• “Delight yourself in the Lord and do good, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this (Psalm 37:5-6).

• “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10b).

The word “will” stands out to me. He’s not finished instructing me, working on my behalf, or accomplishing his purposes. It would seem God is guiding me to press on, to pursue the passion in my heart—a particular desire. I will continue the pursuit until God makes clear another course of action.

But every day I pray for his guidance, as an act of committing my way to him. I tell him if I’m blindly heading off course, please adjust my rudder! Every day I seek to submit to his instruction.

I know I can trust God’s truth to teach me in the way I should go, including a change of course if he sees fit. I can trust his heart of love, to understand me and know me. And I can trust who he is: my Heavenly Father who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth (Jeremiah 9:24)—including my little corner of the world.

Meanwhile, waiting may be involved, and hard work may be required.

“Faith doesn’t make things easy. It makes them possible”—Anonymous

* * * * * * * * * *

What scriptural truth has God communicated to you that is guiding current decisions in your life? Please share! Your input may be just what someone else needs to hear.

Next Monday we’ll examine Discovery #2.

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