What Do We Do When There Is No Blueprint?




Just about the time I think a plan is coming together and the project goal and completion are set, something unexpected happens to throw a wrench in the mix. It seems like it always happens.


Invariably there is something I didn’t see that puts an obstacle in the plan. Oftentimes it will end up costing more than anticipated and the budget isn’t going to stretch.


It happens to all of us. It isn’t just at work. Actually, such issues at work can be easier sometimes because there is a team involved to help sort it all out and come up with a new plan. In our personal lives, we may not have a big support team.


New plans and projects may have targets and timelines, but they don’t always have blueprints to follow.


Our personal lives might have targets and goals, maybe even timelines for the big things. I remember that was true for us when we were working to put aside money for our children’s college educations. We knew about the amount of money needed, when we would need it, how much we were making, and how long it would take to reach the savings goal each semester or each year. Those helped us and gave us guidance.


What happens when there are no blueprints to follow?


 What do I mean?


Let’s say I am reasonably responsible and operate with a budget. I am pretty diligent to follow it and even have some of those “just in case” categories. I even have a savings plan in the mix. I know I can’t plan for everything, but I am trying to take some of those inevitable unexpected things into account.


I feel like things are on track until one day the company I am working for makes a decision to reduce staff or maybe move out of the area or country. (It happened today when a major company cut 12,000 employees, a whopping 11% of their workforce.)


It’s a rough day even if I had been hearing whispers that something like this might happen. I collect my things and try to sort out if there is a severance package or some level of unemployment benefits. I feel glad I have been working with a budget for a while, but I know there isn’t enough money in the bank to be out of work for a long time.




Let’s say I have a great job with benefits I really appreciate, but then one day on a routine visit to the doctor I find out there is a serious illness developing. Several treatment options are available to me, but I need to check with my insurance company to see which is the one I can get coverage for. Suddenly, I discover the medical issue is considered catastrophic and there is no coverage.


Now what?


Maybe I have been blessed with several great relationships, the kind that start casually and end up as something really solid, rich, and sustaining. These are my “go to” girls and then one day I discover one of them is having an affair with the other one’s husband. I sure didn’t see that coming. It also means those very relationships I had counted on dissolve in a split second.


I could go on, but you get the picture. Life is full of uncertainties and doesn’t stay on a predictable schedule. That would help, but what would really help is a flexible blueprint that would point the way when the unexpected DOES happen.


What do I do when there is no blueprint?


I hear some of you saying things like “you need to put your faith in the Lord” or “trust Jesus, He’ll work it out” or “this testing will reap a great harvest in your life”. (Okay, maybe you wouldn’t say that.)


Do I look to the Lord in the unexpected that has turned my world upside down?


YES!!   BUT…that still doesn’t give me a blueprint.


Do I believe He will be with me? Provide for me? Yes, but how and when? He doesn’t operate with that kind of blueprint.


I know that from what I see from Genesis through Revelation. He gives me principles to live by and stories about how He moves in behalf of His children. He gives me tenets of faith to build my life upon and promises to sustain me, but He doesn’t give blueprints.


I look at the life of Jesus and I see He showed His love and power through many healing miracles, but it was never done the same way. There was no formula.


I see He tells Peter he can walk on the water to meet Him when the disciples’ boat is caught in a storm, but He doesn’t tell him how to do it. There are lots of examples in His Word.


What’s the hard part?


Trusting Jesus when we can’t see the end result is the hard part of doing life when the unexpected happens, when life throws us a curve ball we don’t think we can come back from.


The truth is: We know Jesus is absolutely trustworthy and yet totally outside of our control.


 What sustains me then? Holding fast to the certainty of His love for me. Resting in the sure promise He will be with me. All those stories in the Bible show me that time and time again.


Life without blueprints builds trust.


It builds faith.


It builds character.


It is the life of a disciple.



Journey Into the Unknown




I confess to being a Star Wars fan. Our family has great memories of waiting in line to see the very first in the movie series, Episode IV-A Lost Hope that was released May 25, 1977. It was a given that we were looking forward to Episode VII-The Force Awakens when it was released December 18, 2015.


The series brings back images of westerns of an earlier time period where the battle between good and evil was somehow clearer than many movies today.


I think our hearts are captured by the conquest of the good and right standing against the evil. Perhaps it gives us hope in our own battles and conquests that ultimately good will win out over evil, light will prevail over darkness.


When Star Wars came on the scene it took us on journeys into the unknown. There were galaxies beyond our own to discover, bizarre and eerie characters to study, and sorting out the truth about “the Force” accompanied by a musical score that accentuated the story unfolding on the screen. That same musical score would be etched in our memories as high school bands learned it and used it as a highlight of their halftime shows at fall football games.


I wonder if we recognize movies about treks into space are not the only journeys into the unknown.


Each of our days is just such a journey. Yes, I make plans and think of seasons of life common to us all, but each day unfolds revealing how little control I have over its twists and turns. Somehow I can feel less excited about that than I might in a movie.



My journey into the unknown requires so much more of me than a space movie.


One of my favorite Bible stories of journeying into the unknown is found in Joshua. For as horrible as conditions in Egypt were for the children of Israel, it became clear soon enough after they crossed the Red Sea that the trek they were beginning would expose them to much they had never seen or experienced. The conditions would not be easy and we know how they faltered under the leadership of Moses and balked at times when Joshua took the lead.


The Israelites were stepping off into the unknown, but have we forgotten that it was not unknown to God?


God knew the destination and had planned for the route He desired them to take. He also knew it would birth a new level of faith and trust in the people He had called out of slavery in Egypt. The conditions they faced would not be comfortable, but that was less significant to God. He knew these conditions would be temporary, but the development of their faith and trust would endure forever.


The Israelites needed to learn God could be trusted.


So do we.


The Israelites needed to know the land the spies had described that was flowing with milk and honey was not to be the source of their faith. Their faith and trust needed to be in the One who had bequeathed the Promised Land to them.


Page by page in the book of Joshua we discover the challenge to grow in faith that God was good and was for their good as they wandered day by day extending into forty years of their lives. The children of Israel also needed to come to grips with the unexpected challenges they faced and the fears that sought to overtake them.


I wonder if the journey was less about gaining the Promised Land and more about believing that God could be trusted.


Isn’t His first and foremost desire to be in relationship with and for us to know Him as He truly is? To know He is good. To know He is trustworthy. To know that our unknown is not unknown to Him.


Consider this…


Is that what He also wants us to see on our own journey into the unknown?



Uncertainty: Fodder for Fear


I think there are not many things that loom as large to feed our fear than uncertainty. It seems to come at us from every direction. It can be as simple as accepting an invitation to get together with some potential new friends or it can be as risk-filled as considering a job or career change or dealing with unending medical tests with no clear diagnosis.


Without even trying I can easily think of major times of uncertainty in my own life. One was when my husband was serving in the military half a world away when I was expecting our first child. Another came when I sensed the Lord nudging me to leave my safe teaching career where I had tenure to go to graduate school in the area of counseling (specifically marriage and family therapy) followed by entering into a private Christian practice without health insurance or any clear expectation of income.


There was uncertainty about when to retire and what would be next when I am not one to golf all day or spend my time sitting on a porch leafing through magazines. There is nothing wrong with either of those, but they are not me.


What I know for certain is that life is and always will be full of uncertainty for all of us. I also know that the degree to which we fall prey to fear that can paralyze us can expose the gaps in our trust in the Lord and His presence and provision no matter what the circumstances or decisions we are facing.



When unexpected things happen, it exposes where our trust lies. Perhaps it lies with our paycheck or savings account. Perhaps it lies within a specific church or ministry. Perhaps it lies with family or one or several very close friends we rely on. Perhaps it lies with an institution like the government.


I am not suggesting not trusting anyone or anything. What I do know is that if my trust in the Lord gets stretched like a muscle that is being worked out regularly, my world will not fall apart when those people or those things I am trusting in change or disappear. My trust and faith will get healthier and stronger even though I won’t enjoy the process any more than I enjoy a workout at the gym. Both are good for me!


Mark Batterson notes the following:


Faith doesn’t reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty. We’ll never have all the answers. And some people never come to terms with this truth. They feel there is something wrong with them because they can’t wrap their minds around God. But maybe faith has less to do with gaining knowledge and more to do with causing wonder. Maybe a relationship with God doesn’t simplify our lives. Maybe it complicates our lives in ways that they should be complicated.”


 It reminds me again of the children of in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe asking the beavers about whether or not Aslan is safe since he is after all a lion. The answer may not have comforted them because the beavers respond that he isn’t safe, but he is good!


Sometimes I think we want the Lord to be safe and miss that He is not safe in the sense we a8c34c9d68f8e8ece2a4647fbc4d39deare hoping He will be, but His goodness is plentiful. I love how C.S. Lewis depicts the Lord as Aslan. It serves notice to us all that He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah even as He is the tender Savior urging children to come to Him.


Our challenge is to allow ourselves to grow in our Christian life and maturity until we experience the paradox of being childlike in our faith, trust, and wonder. In Him we can have spiritual certainty in the midst of circumstances and daily life filled with uncertainty.


Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life. It is chasing the lions that cross our paths. It is recognizing a divine appointment when you see one.


Embrace relational uncertainty. It’s called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It’s called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It’s called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty. It’s called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It’s called revelation.” Mark Batterson


 In Pat Springle’s wonderful book, Trusting: The Issue At The Heart of Every Relationship, he cuts to the chase with these words:


“Only God remains 100% trustworthy, as well as totally outside of our control.”


 Doesn’t it come down to this: If I am trusting Him for salvation and life with Him everlastingly, can I not trust Him for the circumstances in this life no matter what they may be?


It was Lucy, the youngest, in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that was the lion chaser, who sensed and looked always for Aslan and trusted Him. She chased after and trusted Aslan with childlike trust and faith. I think we need to grow up to become more childlike like Lucy.



We Must Wake Up


In 1999 one of the popular movies of the day was “The Matrix.”  Whether or not you liked it or didn’t, there is an important message in the movie about living in two worlds…the one we see and the one we don’t. How true that is for us! We live in the seen and the unseen, but the problem for us is that it is so easy to live in the ‘seen world’ that we can forget the ‘unseen’ world is everywhere around us.


But, we must wake up! Not all in the unseen world is for us and some in the unseen world hate us and mean to destroy us.


In “The Matrix” Morpheus sums things up in these lines:


“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can abstract-access-close-up-1089438feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”


As believers we are called to be in the world, but not of it. That is harder than it may seem many days because we have forgotten why we are upended over and over again. We are image bearers and because we bear Christ’s image, the one who would seek to overthrow Christ would seek to mar and destroy us. You know who I mean. It is Satan, the one who gloried in himself and sought to ascend to the very throne of God, a star in the angelic realm corrupted by his own pride and lust.


We misunderstand his motives when he sneakily moves in the corners of our thoughts, distracts us from our times alone with the Lord, and creates doubt and despair that God is even in touch with what we are going through. We believe he is meant to tempt us and that is true. We believe he skillfully deceives and that is true even though we forget Christians are not immune to his devices to do so. We believe God will destroy him on the last day and that as believers we have power over him and that is also true.


What we do not fully comprehend is how much Satan hates us just because we are image bearers. He means to mar us and wound us in any way he can in the hope he can destroy us. What we do matters to him, but who and whose we are infuriates him.


As believers we are sealed until that day when Satan will meet his doom, but that does not mean we are immune to the ways he seeks to toy with us. We are not unlike Peter whose strong belief in the Lord was still eroded by the enemy devices. It is no wonder that over and over again scripture admonishes us to “stand” against the wiles of the evil one. Satan seeks to mock God by upending us, His image bearers.


Another of Morpheus’s lines in “The Matrix” bears repeating:



“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” 


Peter learned that well, but he was sealed and the Lord had prayed for him that he would turn back to Him. The Lord prays for us as well so that when darkness overtakes us and we yield, we will turn back once again to Him.


As the world erodes and darkness deepens, the Lord has not forgotten us. His prayers for us are eternal.


Peter’s words say it best in 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV):


“8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”


We cannot let the world be pulled over our eyes to blind us to the truth. We must wake up and then help each other to stay awake as well as we wait and watch for Him as watchmen on the wall. 

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What Are We Passing to the Next Generation?




At various points there are news items that focus on the answer to the title’s question. Those news items often look at externals like climate change, educational opportunities, career potentials, governmental policies, and more. Depending on your viewpoints and values, these will have importance to you.


As a mother, grandmother, former teacher, ministry leader, and professional counselor, I believe we need to step back to a more significant level of consideration…the child’s heart.


Most of us have heard Proverbs 22:6 (KJV):


“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”


adult-baby-black-and-white-1089077The key word in the verse is train. It means to teach through practice and instruction over a period of time or to cause growth in a particular direction. A major challenge to the effort is the amount of time and consistency it takes in an era where busyness reins. Some of that busyness connects with the goal to train, but often the choices are ones we may not give enough thought to in consideration of what it will result in. Busyness has become so much a way of life that too many of us sail along without much thought of how much time is passing.


It’s no wonder we are somewhat startled when our son or daughter is off to junior high, high school, or college. We were so busy doing so many things that we could not really stay in touch with how fast time was passing. I think it happens to us all.


It’s important to consider that every child comes into the world hardwired with a need to be noticed, appreciated, and known. Most of us get that because those needs don’t end in childhood and how well they are met in childhood has a direct impact on how we function relationally as adults.


The list of hindrances to meeting those needs of a child beginning at birth onward is a adult-black-and-white-books-77167fairly long one, but one of them is that the adults in their lives must not be so busy they do not have time or energy to notice, acknowledge, and encourage. Our new devices that allow us a vast array of ways to connect don’t really accomplish that; they can only support what happens when we are “in person” with that child.


We miss so many opportunities when our children are toddlers. We can mistakenly think the way to pass on these needed relational nutrients is by taking quality time to play with the children and affirm them when doing so. That is not a bad thing, but with time constraints there are limits there for many adults. The place we can really put good things into the heart of a child happen in the dailyness of life.


Instead of having the child play or watch a DVD or TV when you have a chore to do, invite them to be with you while doing it even if you fear it will slow you down. (It might slow you a bit, but the payoff will be worth it.) When you are sorting laundry, talk through what you are doing and in no time they can help sort that with you. Why? You are conveying that you really want to be with them, showing them they can contribute at a very early age, developing something that will give them confidence and competence because they are capable. Those are big foundational building blocks. It is doubly good because we are not just telling them something, but we are showing them and being with them to do it. That covers all those three needs that are hardwired into a child’s heart.


A new Harvard study also shows that these children will become more responsible and successful as adults. That’s a great thing to pass on to the next generation. It also helps us accomplish the responsibility to steward a child before the Lord to be able to live without us.


What we call our children is also something we need to be aware of. I have heard far too many adults share about names they were called as children by parents or other adults that have had difficulty shaking to be clear about who they are.


My children are well into adulthood, but I still love it when I get to introduce them and say, “This is my son, David,” or “This is my daughter, Elise.”  I am still expressing my claim and relationship with them much as God did with Jesus when He spoke the words: “This is my Son, whom I love.”


38808_1161018762414_3207540_n Jesus offered the same love and acceptance to those who were with Him during His ministry on earth. He offers it to us still and there is nothing more powerful than having the truth of that woven into the fabric of our being. It moves us beyond performance, pleasing behaviors, and into a solid secure relationship that equips us for facing each day even when the day is hard, disappointing, or painful.


I want to close this post with some words by Kenny Luck in his new book, Dangerous Good that point to some key reminders:


“That is the power of unconditional and sacrificial love being recognized, received, and responded to be someone. It creates a spirit of thankfulness and stewardship to honor the sacrifice. By contrast, fear of somehow losing God’s love by what you do or don’t do inevitability devolves into performance for God’s favor and love. That is when our spiritual life hits a slippery slope God never intended.”


The Lord doesn’t want us to forget to live and pass on the truth of Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39 (ESV):


“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”