The Plan

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Proverbs 16:1 (TPT) Go ahead and make all the plans you want, but it’s the Lord who will ultimately direct your steps.

Proverbs 16:9 (TPT) Within your heart you can make plans for your future, but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there.

I admit it…I’m a planner. In my young adult years, this perfectionist was obsessed with planning and making lists, trying not to miss or forget anything. Fast forward a few decades and a couple of daughters, I don’t make as many lists. I am a somewhat reformed perfectionist, but I still make plans. I like to know which days I go to the gym. I have one day set for laundry, house cleaning, etc. I have regular days each week for volunteering. 

In 2015, I trained for three months to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. My plan was to be physically prepared to conquer the summit and view God’s glorious panorama from the top of the ginormous granite boulder. While on the elliptical with my 22-pound pack, I prayed “God do not let me get injured during training or on this hike!” My husband told me that I trained like an animal! 

Finally, hike day arrived and my little group of three set off in the early morning stillness of the park. As darkness gave way to the sunrise, we laughed and sang, soaking in nature’s beauty along the way. All was well until it wasn’t. I began to have symptoms of high altitude sickness, something I could not have trained for in Houston. With less than two miles to the summit, I knew something in my body was not right and decided to turn back. It would be three days before I would be aware of what had happened. I believe God carried me two miles down-trail where I waited for the others to return from the summit. He orchestrated the Search and Rescue Team to be less than 30 minutes away when our call for help reached them. He granted the medical staff wisdom for treating me. You see, it was a perfect storm of hyponatremia in addition to altitude sickness. Without medical intervention, I would have died. My electrolyte levels were gravely below normal, and my body had started to shut down. When I came out of the medical coma, I did not understand what had happened or why I needed a hospital. Slowly, my brain fog lifted. I recognized my family again and recalled that I had been in Yosemite. 

Despite the fact that I had somehow survived this ordeal,  I still failed to grasp how dire the situation had been or how atrophied my muscles became from only three days in bed. Regaining strength would take months. For several months, my vision was hampered by the effects of hemorrhaging behind the eyes which meant I could not drive. Even so, God gave me peace throughout the healing process. If my vision were never to be restored, it would be fine. God’s patience soothed my impatient brain. 

My plan for no injuries and reaching the summit didn’t go quite the way had I expected or preferred. However, none of it surprised God. Although I never had the opportunity to view that glorious panorama, God provided for my life to be saved and restored. He miraculously saved me that day. God used this event for His glory and His purpose. Prayer warriors from over 75 churches in the United States were praying for me, and my family witnessed my miraculous recovery. My story has become a stepping stone for me to speak of my faith.

Here’s the take-away: consult God, make plans, and expect the unexpected. Then, hang on for the ride with God.

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Is 14:24-27 (NIV) The Lord Almighty has sworn,Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.”

Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

The Armor of God: Breastplate of Righteousness

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Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12 (NIV)

The breastplate of armor covers and protects the heart. Righteousness is purity of heart. Our righteousness is truly not our own. It is Jesus’ righteous covering. Through Him, we receive full rights as children of Father God. As such, Jesus transfers God’s righteousness, the breastplate of armor, to us (Rom. 5:1-5).

How does this happen?

In Hosea 10:12, we have the instructions: 

“Sow righteousness for yourselves”  When our actions are pure of heart, morally grounded, not just doing good or right things, we plant God’s presence on earth. Our motivation is God’s love. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, the heart is transformed or purified to be more like Jesus’ heart.

“reap the fruit of unfailing love”  When we share with others the unconditional love Jesus gives us, we  have heart growth. By treating others as we would treat Jesus or as Jesus would treat them, we become His hands and feet on this earth. Bitterness and resentment will fall away. The fruit of joy and peace will take up residence. 

“break up your unplowed ground” If you have ever tried to plant a garden, you know that it is nearly impossible to dig a hole in hard, dry ground. Ideally, you need to prepare the soil by watering and tilling it and adding compost or fertilizer. We need to prepare our hearts for growth by asking God to reveal and remove bitterness and resentment, anger and hatred, and any other hinderances to growth.

“He comes and showers His righteousness on you.”  Jesus’ gift of salvation and atonement is a pardon once for all, a transfer of righteousness from Father God to followers of Jesus. In the Old Testament (prior to Jesus’ birth), appointed priests offered sacrifices and atonement for the sins of the people yearly. This seemed to be a never-ending process. Priests entered the Temple (originally built by Solomon) and petitioned God to pardon sins on behalf of the people. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. No other priest dared to even look into the Holy of Holies. Every year, the High Priest would petition for the forgiveness of the people’s sins.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple was torn from top to bottom. There was no longer a need for the High Priest to petition God by offering sacrifices. Now, we approach God directly without a priest to mediate and He bestows His righteousness, purity of heart, on us.

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Romans 5:1-5 (TPT) Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and He now declares us flawless in His eyes. This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory! But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!

Booster Seat View

Sunrise over Texas

Some couples purchase a recreational vehicle, a mountain cabin or a beach bungalow. Instead, we bought a small plane. My 6’3” husband, Bill, is a private pilot. Having our own plane provides flexibility for visiting family or getting away. On my first flight in our plane, I adjusted the seat as much as I could and discovered it was not going to be comfortable for me. Being only 5’4”, I had positioned the seat fairly close to the dash, but felt like I was in the back seat. A king-size pillow behind my back pushed me forward. What I did not realize was how severely diminished my view was compared to my tall pilot’s view. I could see the dash and the instruments quite well, but I could not see over the dash or even the plane’s cowling (hood). For three years, this has been my perspective in the plane. 

Recently, on a three-hour flight, my tush was tired of sitting. Since you can’t just get up and walk around in a small plane, Bill suggested I sit on my pillow. After relocating the pillow, I suddenly could see over the dash and the cowling! It was amazing to see the difference! Bill immediately noticed the look of delight on my face. I could see terrain, buildings and the distant horizon. As we discussed this, we decided I needed a booster seat of some sort. Anyone have a telephone book or a Christmas catalog?

The lesson struck home with me. Our outlook on life can be limited and we don’t even have a clue that it is. We know hope is there, but our vision is blocked. God gives us a limited perspective of life because we are human and cannot possibly grasp the whole picture of life. Our viewpoint is restricted, only seeing a partial view. In the whole picture, God has mapped out the clouds of turmoil and pitfalls of life, using them to keep us on His course. His plans are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Gradually, He gives us the boost to see a little more and a little more, until we see how wounds, disappointments and hurts play into His plan. He reveals how life’s twists and turns, while not always pleasant, are used for His glory and Kingdom. His hope is found in the unseen. 

God grant us patience as we wait to trade our limited sight for Your glorious panorama.

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Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Romans 8:24-25(TPT) For this is the hope of our salvation. But hope means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen. For why would we need to hope for something we already have? So because our hope is set on what is yet to be seen, we patiently keep on waiting for its fulfillment.

The Armor of God: Belt of Truth

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Eph. 6:10-14a (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…

I woke up ready to fight, but not the same fight as yesterday. Today, I reject the lies of depression and inadequacy. I put on the full armor of God, starting with truth. I am beautifully and wonderfully made by The Creator (Ps. 139:13-14) and in His image (Gen. 1:27). His design is evidenced in me! Will you join me in this fight against the darkness of this world? 

This season is bittersweet. I miss the hoopla my mother would put together for Christmas Eve: Gingerbread cookies, cut-out and frosted sugar cookies, Chex mix, fudge, divinity, Rice Krispies treats and many other delicious delights would fill the dining table. My father would gather the family and read the story of Jesus’ birth. We would sing Christmas hymns, play cards, and eat the tasty treats. In case we had guests, Mom always made more than enough goodies. When there were leftovers she would groan, “Oh, I made too much!” 

Christmas is quite different now. Between COVID restrictions, decision and death, many family members are missing this Christmas. Let us focus on what is here and now. Like the twinkle in the eyes of children beholding sparkling lights and decorations, the joy of singing Christmas carols, and being able to video conference with loved ones.

My own children are adults and our traditions have changed as loved ones have relocated to other cities, states, countries or even heaven. It’s ironic that as a young married couple my husband and I wanted to create our own traditions, but now that our parents have passed we miss the traditions of our youth. God’s traditions are stable, unchanging. His love, mercy and grace are the same yesterday, today and forever. As we experience the strangest Christmas season of our lifetime, let us remember Christ came to earth as a baby, He bore our sins and died a horrible death on a cross to give us eternal life. This will not change. Jesus loves us with an everlasting love. 

It can be a struggle to stay focused on God especially with current national and world events. Even when we cannot sense His presence, He is here, there, and everywhere. Our flesh can block us from knowing His presence, but as we put on His armor, truth sets us free from the lies of darkness. Alas, perfection is not of this earth and we will still have times of depression. 

I will have times when I wonder if I’m going down into the dark pit of depression again. When I do, I cry out to God, grab hold of His robe and He grabs me by the scruff of the neck. Papa making sure I don’t get lost. God created us in His image, including emotions. He understands and faithfully holds us closer even when we cannot see His face or feel His presence. So let’s begin today and fight for God’s truth. Will you join me?

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