…While I’m Making Other Plans.

…While I’m Making Other Plans.

I know I was destined to write this entry. 😄

The inspiration – a little of it, anyway – was the movie Edge of Tomorrow, which I’ll describe simply as ‘”Ground Hog Day” during wartime,’ so as not to spoil it for you too much. A bigger part of where this post started was my thinking on how to answer the question, “So what do you do?”

The best response is “G.H.R.O. W.I.S.E.R.” This is, of course, an acronym, a handy literary tool that helps me remember stuff. In this case, it’s where I want my focus to be. I’ve determined what’s important after careful deliberation. And that included deciding what I can live without. If you’re curious, the acronym stands for:

God
Health
Relationships
Objects

Writing
Income or Investments
Singing and playing music
Encouraging others
Recreation – that is, an appropriate amount of downtime

You might say GHRO WISER is my mission statement. It’s my list of priorities, the areas of life I want to concentrate on, in some kind of order. Today, however, I’m not writing about the goals I have, but more about the need to have a firm idea on what they are. I’m talking about the act of choosing and planning, and whether it makes a difference in life. Or not. 

So you may have heard the saying, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” This is basically a consideration of fate vs free will. Which is it? Can life – a Christian life – be both? I think it’s critical to make the following distinction:

Do my choices make any difference?” is one question;

Does God already ‘know’ what I will choose?” is an entirely separate matter. And, it’s the less vital one.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.
Isaiah 55:8

The gist of this verse is, I think, that there are things I can know, and things I may never know. Much of what God has done – and how He does it – falls into the latter category. I want to concentrate on the former and not waste too much time speculating.

What do or can I “know?” Here are three crucial choices:

  1. I can choose some very important stuff, like my attitude and acceptance of circumstances; like getting up when I fall; like asking without shame for help from others and from God; like not worrying about the aforementioned unknowables; like who I live and do for
    Here’s a quote off of inwardquest.com which sums this up nicely:

    “…Instead of our story being … linear… with a set beginning, middle, and end, it is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. Each choice you make takes you to a different fate… destiny… future. Who we are is made up of our responses to events in our lives. If we change our responses, we change our future responses, as well.”
    This is the heart of recovery from addictions and compulsive behavior.

  2. I can realize that I do, but God determines the results; if I don’t do, nothing will be different
    This emphasizes the importance of action, of not being “so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly use.” I love this quote from Ronald Reagan:
    “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.
    I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”

    Remember the definition on insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
  3. I can remember and be aware of the evidence of my past, and that, by far, it has been good
    I’m still alive, and the analogy of a sports team in the post-season is a great one. I like the direction my life is going now, and that has everything to do with living it for and with God.
    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
    Romans 8:28

To sum up, for me the question of whether I have had any hand in what’s happened to me, past and present, is a definite “Yes!” My choices certainly brought me to rock bottom. I believe I was saved when I finally chose not to force my own decisions on life.

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    Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

    Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

    Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? Ever had to make the same one more than once? Have you ever started a statement with the words, “I want to…” “I’m going to…” “I think I should…”? Have you actually reached those goals in your life? Do you have compulsions to act in certain ways or have plain old bad behaviors? Are you a serial procrastinator? Are you addicted to anything?

    img_2915Think about this for a moment: If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then quite simply, You are doing something Yourself doesn’t want to do. Did you catch that? Does it sound like there are two people, two wills, operating inside you?

    There are. There is the one doing those things and the one who doesn’t want to do them and instead, wants to do these other things, that are probably much better for your health, wealth, and your true happiness.

    Would it surprise you to learn that this has been a problem for people for thousands of years? Here’s a quote from quite a long time ago:

    “Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong.”

    Or to put it another way:

    “I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I don’t want to do.”

    img_0885So I have a question for you, “Who’s in charge inside of you, anyway?” One way to answer this is to think of those two selves as your body and your mind. Body wants everything that’s fun and pleasurable; Mind has dreams of being something in this world. The two are at war because bringing dreams to life requires hard work and sacrifices; it means Body gets less – sometimes far less – of what it lusts for.

    I have good news and bad news for you. There is a way to break these habits, BUT it’s no miracle cure, no single button to be pushed or spell to be incanted. Transforming your life is a day-by-day journey, a voyage of discovery, and likely is a lifelong trip.

    If you want to be the best you can be, take hope, it is very possible, but there are a few important facts to know before you start.

    #1 The right word

    First and most importantly, your “best” is that condition you have reached when you’ve run out of time. It’s the furthest you’ll ever get in this life. Were you ever to reach your “best,” you’d have nowhere to go but down. Better to want to be … better. Better today than you were yesterday, last week, last year. Behavioral change is all about progress, not perfection.

    #2 You can’t do it alone

    small-groupThere’s a saying, “People don’t lack strength, they lack will (power).” The way to build the determination you need is with support, especially support from others who are traveling the same path as you are. This is the idea behind 12-step programs like “______ Anonymous” and “Celebrate Recovery.” You meet with and get to know people who understand what you’re going through and why, and you share the struggle, out loud. You talk about it. You listen. You learn helpful stuff.

    It also is a benefit (a huge benefit) to have an “authority” figure with expertise in self-improvement, in renewing lives. (For many, that ‘higher power’ is God or The Creator of everything. The reasoning is that He created each of us, so who better to know how to get us working well and feeling good?)

    #3 You can’t “stop,” you must replace

    I have a saying, “Thinking about not doing something, is the same as thinking about doing effortit – you are still thinking about it.” Call this a Law of Attraction. If your mind is focused on a thing, your body will follow right along to that thing. When you try to leave one habit behind, you must have somewhere new to head toward. With Mind focused on that (and not the old actions), Body follows and becomes able to do things you never thought possible.

    #4 It’s no overnight stay

    IMG_3215Here’s a great example: Imagine you’re relocating to a foreign country. It’s a permanent move, not a vacation. You have to learn the language, the customs and geography you now find your self in. You immerse yourself in it, but it’s still going to take time. Eventually, you’ll feel at home again. Each day you’ll make progress – sometimes only a little. It’s a process of improvement. It’s growing.

    To conclude, I have a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. The characters in this film leave the real world to enter a simulated environment – a virtual reality. Their bodies remain behind, comfortably seated. If they die in that alternate setting, their bodies die, too.

    “The body can not live without the mind.”
    -Morpheus

    cslewisWe could go deep into philosophy and theology here and argue about whether the mind continues without the body or not, but the body definitely does not live without the mind. For me, that means that “I” am first my mind (the order giver) and secondly my body (the order taker).

    “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
    -C.S.Lewis

    Hope For Life

    This article appears in the New Beginnings newsletter, an Independent Prison Outreach Ministry, Summer 2017 Edition.

    I have a good friend, ____, who some years ago served ____ years of a ____-year sentence for (a deadly serious crime). I’ve heard his testimony several times. He credits his time inside and the healing work of Jesus Christ for making him the man he has become: liberated from prison, college graduate, married, a father and grandfather, a man of God, full of faith and hope, giving back and paying forward in many ways (including visiting those inside), sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ; that all may be saved and set free. He was saved by Christ right in his cell and was immediately released (spiritually).

    Released spiritually.

    I have not been confined against my will, except for a few hours for a DUI in 1996 and a week-long stay at a behavioral health center following a suicide attempt, so I can’t relate literally to my friend’s experiences. But, like him, I am a lifer spiritually. The ironic thing is, today I’m “held” by my will, not against it.

    You see, Christ found me on that same day I attempted to escape life, July 25, 2008. Before that day, I was in a prison of my own making, with bars of guilt and secrets, surrounded by a wall of shame, convicted in my heart and head of the things I know I did.

    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
    1 John 1:8 NIV

    One thing my friend and I both have learned is that freedom and restoration are possible. These things are not at all circumstantial. You can be free no matter where you are. And all it takes is accepting a gift, receiving a new life. That gift is the one man who voluntarily accepted every sentence, punishment, and penalty, once and for all. He is Son of Man, Son of God.

    Why would anyone, let alone a Son of God, do such a thing for the likes of us? One reason is that God is perfect, completely just and completely merciful. The only way He could fulfill his own verdict on sin and still hold each one of His creations dear is to pour out His wrath on Jesus.

    But there’s another reason. He offers us this gift of being born again because he has an important task – a sacred mission – for every one of us, and He fully understands how we have been detoured and side-tracked and even kept ignorant of our purpose.

    Now, my friend and I have something very much in common. We’ve been sentenced to life; a life of hope. Now that we know even a little about God and Christ, we will never be free from Him and the hope that he gives. And this is a very, very great feeling.

    Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
    Zechariah 9:12 NIV

    What do I hope for? Something, anything, everything better, even though I may not receive it until I finally meet my Maker face to face.

    How does it work? I describe it being given a new attitude, a tiny piece of awareness that caused a complete reversal in the way I looked at myself and this world. This is miraculous because my outlook hadn’t been something I seemed to have much control over – especially about myself. Deep down, I did not love, or even like myself, and that made me miserable and angry.

    If I had to choose a single word to explain what changed in me, it is acceptance. Acceptance of several things:

    • acceptance that there is a God with a plan for everything, and incredible, unbelievable love for me, even at my worst, because He created me
    • acceptance of reality – of my current place in this world, my circumstances (and that my own decisions had led to the mess I was in)
    • acceptance that there are many, many things I have no control over – specifically other people, and that actually, the only thing I can control is myself – my own thinking and reactions
    • acceptance  (and this is huge)  that God has something for me to do with this life

    I can see that this is God’s story, and that mine is just one small chapter. This does not mean that my part in the story is small; it’s unique and vital in some way to the biggest picture. I may never know exactly how.

    There is someone who is a great example of this faith, Nick Vujicic. You may have heard of him. You can google him. He was born with no arms and no legs. Think about that. He can’t do even the simplest of tasks by himself. But he can control what he thinks and how he would react to his circumstances. Today, he is very much alive and living, a successful (meaning $$$$$$) motivational speaker, a husband and father, and famous. And he is a Christ-follower with hope for life.