Trapped Between Planners and Freedom

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I am not a planner. I think of myself as a spur-of-the-moment, let’s go do something, sort of guy. But I lie to myself.

My wife is an amazing planner; my son thrives in knowing what is going to happen next. Their planning tendencies can often drive me nuts. I just want to be in the moment. Feel the waves. Again, I lie.

My dark secret: I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to do for the day.

Do you find comfort in routine? I do. Knowing on some foundational level what I’m going to be doing throughout the day is like a cozy heavy jacket. Knowing that I’ll start my day:

  • Drinking coffee
  • Reading a morning devotional
  • Eating breakfast
  • Taking a shower
  • And finishing getting ready

The above minuscule routine can be bliss.

Working as an office manager for an architectural firm, I have little routine. I walk in, most days, not knowing what to except. One week, we could be working on a marketing brochure; the next week, we might be working on a slew of projects on a daily basis. There is no base level routine. Which leaves me on edge.

The sky is the limit.

Sure, I could come into work early, try and establish my own routine. The problem with this solution is that the moment I walk in the door, I am fair game to whomever needs my help. The needs of the firm and all that.

Planning equals paralysis.

Whenever my wife asks me a question about some upcoming event, I mentally freeze up. Something inside just doesn’t want to commit. I want to be free. Screaming with Mel Gibson’s William Wallace, “Freedom!!!” But freedom from what?

Deep down, beyond my deer in the headlight stare I give when asked a planning question, I am a planner. I crave routine. Or at least I crave structure. Give me a solid structural foundation and you can throw anything at me. Anything.

I need to know that my footing is sure. That even as all hell is breaking loose, there is the promise of routine to fall back into.

I feel trapped by those who feel the need to plan and yet, I am a planner. Go figure.

Behind the Scenes

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“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NIV)

Came across the above verse this morning that I wanted to share. I love how God is telling Israel not to dwell upon what has already happened. Verse 19 begins with the gentle reminder that God is always working, even when we can’t see Him, God is going before us. Reminds me of Jesus’s words in John 14:3 –

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

There is comfort in knowing that God is constantly at work and going before us–reminds me even further of Haggai–. Whether you are dealing with an unstable job situation–like me–or just life in general, take comfort in knowing that God goes before us just like He did for Israel and Joshua when they set forth into the Promised Land.

I know that it is really easy to read what I have written and just dismiss it. But this is truth. Throughout the Bible, God constantly reminds us that He is there, working. Do you believe that? Better yet, are you listening/watching for His response?

What is God teaching you? 

Big Decision

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My wife and I have launched ourselves onto an uncertain path. Back in March, we made the decision for her not to sign another contract for this upcoming school year (yes, she is a teacher). For us, this means the loss of the comfort her paycheck brings; for me, it means stepping up to the plate. Even better, for our son, this means that he has his Mom full time. What could be better than that?

I am not sure what the next few months or even the rest of the year looks like. I do know that God is in control. Please know that I do not say that in some sort of trite way but as someone who truly believes it. This does not mean that I do not have moments of pure freaking out. I want to know how things are going to pan out. I want to know the future. I want control!

In all of this though, God is teaching me to let go.

Comfort & Control

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Yesterday (9/10), I started reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I am now on page 100 out of 250 pages. I don’t know what it is, regardless of my political differences with Miller, he somehow always manages to rope me in with his writing. I often feel like him and I are sitting down having a conversation, man to man. This morning (9/11) I woke up and continued reading. In reading, I came across this:

Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better. – p. 100, Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

This got me thinking about my penchant for comfort. Even if the roof is caving in all around me, as long as I have perceived “control” I’m not leaving. This is what happens when I decide that I can do things in my own power; when I tell God that He is not enough.

This past Sunday, the new pastor of my church preached on Nahum 1:7 (NASB).

The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

This got me thinking about whether I truly believe that God is good. I don’t think that this is something that I ever question. What I do question is whether He is enough. Is God big enough to handle whatever situation I am going through? Time and time again, God reveals himself in the Bible showing that he is more than capable of anything. Heck, he created the world! Somehow though I delude myself, in the delight of my comfort, that I have more than enough strength to get myself through this life. This is exactly what satan wants me to believe, that somehow I am better than God. All I have to do is un-tighten my hands, open them up, and let God take what I’ve been trying to control. Surrendering myself, submitting myself to God and his authority are actions I must take on a daily basis. I don’t want to be comfortable, I want God to be in control.

GO: The Application

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Yesterday, I wrote about how persecution led the early church to disperse, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission. How does this apply to us today?

Sometimes We Can Get Comfortable…

Admit it, the church pew that you sit in week-after-week is comfy. The routine of dropping your kids off in children’s church (free babysitting!), enjoying coffee and fellowship in Sunday school, and going through the motions in the main service is familiar. One might call the church routine rather cozy. You know what to expect; you know that nothing uncomfortable is going to happen. If you don’t want to shake hands with someone, you don’t have to. Sure, you may feel spiritually uncomfortable/convicted by the sermon, but church is overall a safe environment where you don’t have to step out of what you know.

Which Keeps Us From Meeting People Where They Live…

I would like to make a bold statement. The people who need Christ the most are not the ones who are going to show up at your local church. Instead, the people who need to hear the Good News are those in our work places and those we meet on the everyday streets of life.

Ever wondered why churches are built where they are? I have. Here in Longview, for instance, we build a good chunk of our churches away from the city’s dividing line, Highway 80. For those that do not live in East Texas, or Longview for that matter, Highway 80 represents a physical shift from the nicer to the older/rougher part of town. The highway itself is filled with strip clubs, homeless, and even prostitutes. All people that need Jesus. So why aren’t more churches built along 80? Ultimately, I think, it boils down to our modern church model. The people who would attend a church located on Highway 80 are not the type who would be able to contribute money on a regular basis for tithe (which keeps the church running). A church located along this line would have to be ran on donations or some other sort of creative model. Not sure how one would accomplish this but the need to meet people where they live is great. No matter what the cost.

But We Are Called To Step Out.

As we saw starting in Acts 5, if we do not step out and go, God will stir up the church and make us go.

What does all of this look like in practice?

  1. Taking on a God-perspective and seeing people as He sees them.
  2. Recognizing that there is a need to tell people about Christ outside of our churches, our comfort zones.
  3. Not only recognizing but also actively doing something about it (the going part). This can be as simple as engaging a co-worker in conversation; this can be has complicated as physically moving overseas to preach the Gospel.
  4. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to share about Christ.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with going to church or sharing life with other believers as the early Christians did in Acts. At some point though, we are supposed to branch out: locally, nationally, globally. Living with the perspective that God has, that there are needs all around us, is hard. I know personally I find it hard to step out of my own life situation. Too often I get bogged down in the day-to-day stuff. As a Christian, I am called to be active, to engage, and to go. For most of us, I don’t think this means suddenly selling all of our possessions and moving overseas. Obedience is the key here as we strive to daily live in obedience to Christ and share Him with those around us.

What do you think?