What’s the plan?

I wanted to write something inspiring to begin 2015, but I read this on the Premier  site and it says everything I wanted to say. Being a Mum of teenagers ,one soon to become an adult ,well in the eyes of the law!, I can relate to having to let out the string just enough to let them learn without hanging themselves and being alert as to when to pull it in a bit. Parenting is difficult, I am proud of all six of my brood  and I  I hope my heavenly Father will say “Well done” when I get to see him in the future,here’s looking forward to the next part of the plan….

The plans I have for you

Well, here we are, the beginning of another year, another New Year. Who knows how many of these you and I have left? But while we do have a new year ahead of us at our feet, I want to share some good news with you, some really great news, some fantastic news, are you ready?

So, what are your plans for this year? Maybe you’re planning on changing jobs or studying or maybe you’re planning a great holiday or planning on buying a new home or renovating or a new car. What’s the plan? Companies spend a small fortune on creating their strategic plans. But a down turn in the economy, an accident, sickness, those things can bring those plans unstuck in an instant.

So what is the plan? I mean if God has a plan for my life, for your life, what would it look like?

I don’t know if you’re a parent but what does a parent’s plan look like for their children? Well, we want them to be healthy, we want them to be happy, we want them to discover their talents and to use them and to be fulfilled. But also we want them to experience and taste life. You know as parents we do want them to be allowed to make mistakes, to learn for themselves, to grow for themselves and to have a great life.

The last few days on A Different Perspective, we’ve been looking at the things that can hold us back from living a great life. You know – the habits, the behaviours, the bad ways of thinking, the anger, the dissent, all those things that yield lousy fruit in our lives. It’s almost like sometimes we’re enslaved to them. We’ve broken so many New Year’s resolutions over the years, we just can’t get free from them.

Now, if that was your kid would you want them to be enslaved to some bad habit? Would you want them to be on a treadmill all their lives trying to get power or money or success? Or would you want them actually really to enjoy their lives? Come on! Really, what would we want for our kids? Pretty obvious, isn’t it? We want them to have a full, wonderful, satisfying life that they would look back on at the end and say, ‘Mum and dad gave me a great start and I have enjoyed my life’.

There was a time in Israel’s history where in their relationship with their God, God their Father, well, they rebelled. God had brought them into their Promised Land. God had given them everything, abundance of the land and they decided that they were just going to live their lives their way and do all the things that God said don’t do.

They worshipped idols, there was injustice in the land, they did some bad things. And as a direct result of that, God allowed the Babylonians to come and invade Israel – to destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, to kill a whole bunch of people and then take the rest into slavery in Babylon. And that slavery lasted for seventy years in the history of Israel. It began in 587 BC and for the next seventy years they were enslaved in Babylon.

And while they were there, this is what He said to His children, Israel, through the Prophet Jeremiah. He said this:

When the seventy years is over I’ll be there and I’ll bring you back because I know what plans I have for you’ said God ‘plans for your welfare, not for your harm, to give you a future with hope. Then you’ll call on me and I’ll hear you, you’ll pray to me and I’ll answer you. When you search for me with all your heart you will find me. (Jeremiah 29: 10-13)

Beautiful, isn’t it? Here are these people who are in slavery because of the things that they have done wrong in rebelling from God. And as we were talking yesterday about this whole slavery thing, I was watching someone in a workplace recently and they have a habit of being really, really critical of other people.

Other people can never match up to their standards. They’re always wandering around behind everybody’s back criticising person A to person B and person B to person A. And I think, you know, this person is like a slave to this spirit of criticism that they’ve got going on inside. Because all of that criticism is it healthy, does it bring joy, does it bring collaboration, and does it bring teamwork? No. What it does is that it brings hurt and dissention and pain and anger and people throw rocks at each other, you know what I mean. And I thought, ‘This person is a slave to that spirit of criticism going on in their lives’.

So the things that we do wrong end up putting us in slavery just the way that when Israel rebelled against God, they ended up in slavery. You might think it’s stating too strong a point. Look at the number of marriages that fall apart because people are enslaved to having affairs, drinking too much, going out, working too hard, not having relationships between husband and wife, the worlds full of it, isn’t it?

And here we have this beautiful statement from God, ‘When the time’s over, I’ll be there and bring you back because I know what the plans are that I have for you – plans for your welfare not for harm to give you a future with hope. You’ll call on me and I’ll hear you. You’ll pray to me and I’ll answer you. When you search for me with all your heart, you’ll find me’.

I get three things out of that, I read that and I think, ‘God our Father He’s just like we are as parents in a sense’.

The first part is, that He allows His children, in this case Israel, to wear the consequences of their mistakes. I thing that’s one of the hardest things to do as a parent, to give our kids space to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. There are consequences – if you’re lazy, you won’t get on at work. I mean if you get to work late all the time and leave early all the time, that’s going to have consequences. And we as parents want our children to learn from the consequences of their mistakes. There’s an old Yiddish proverb that says:

Every generation has to learn; the stove is hot.

It’s good, isn’t it? It’s true, sometimes you can tell your kids, you can tell your kids, take out the garbage bin, take out the garbage bin, TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE BIN and they never do. It’s not until they get their own house and they figure out there are consequences to not taking the garbage out on Thursday night.

So the first thing I get from this, Dad, God – He wants His children, His kids to learn from the consequences of their mistakes.

The second thing though is, while we’re doing that, while we are in our Babylon living out those consequences He comes along and says, ‘Hang on, I have some good plans for you, plans for your welfare and not for your harm’. Isn’t that wonderful?

Right in that space where we’re living through those consequences God comes along and says, ‘I have a plan for you, a future with hope’. Do you want one of those? I sure do, a future with hope.

And then the third thing is that that future involves having a relationship with Him. ‘Then you’ll call on me and I’ll hear you. You’ll pray, I’ll answer you when you search for me with all your heart’.

It turns out He wants exactly the same for us as any parent wants for their children. ‘Sure, go and learn from your mistakes but in the middle of all that I’m there for you. I am here and I have wonderful plans for your life and those plans involve a relationship between you and me’. And on top of that God has something that sometimes we don’t have – the power, the love, the grace, the patience to see it through with us, to make it happen in my life, in your life.

Now for a long time I was living my plan for my life – it involved a lot of money, it involved reputation, it involved career, it involved big cars. But there came a point when it was time for me to get onto God’s plan. To get out of my comfort zone, to use the gifts and talents that He’s given me for His glory, as it turns out, in your life and that’s where the blessing is. The blessing is when we’re living out God’s plan.

Right now, probably you and I are looking forward to the next year – planning, thinking, turning it over in our minds. Can I encourage you as a part of that process to say, ‘God what is your plan in my life because I know that’s where the blessing is?’

‘God, what’s your plan?’

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It Christmas Jim, but not as we know it.

Dear Jim at The Jobcenter,

Thank you for your letter  informing me that Christmas will muck up your payments to me, I had guessed as much. I understand that you and your colleagues won’t be working over Christmas, but I was puzzled that you have asked me to sign and post my declaration on the day it’s due.

Hands up which Postman Pat is doing the collection Christmas Day? Noone? Sorry Jim they are not working either, and would there be any one in your office to open it on Boxing Day if it were to arrive.

Thank you for page 2 of the leaflet, I suppose that page 1 wasn’t necessary, it says that information about signing arrangements are over the page, they are not Jim. There is no “over the page”

This paragraph has me thinking “Although your payments may be sent early, they will not be treated as overdue until three working days after your normal attendance day.”

If they are being sent early Jim, how can they be overdue? Do you mean if I have to post my form after Boxing day, it won’t be overdue? I have quite a good command of the English language Jim,  but you have to admit ,this is a bit mystifying. You warn me that if I don’t get my form there on time I may find my account closed, I will do my best, I could sign it early and send it but that would get your feathers all ruffled wouldn’t it.

Well enjoy your Christmas dinner Jim, we will too if the money turns up,

Love, J (or Madam as the letter says, although that line of work doesn’t appeal to me Jim.)

By the way you forgot to sign the letter.

Dollies.

I hate Christmas, no, that’s not really true. If it weren’t for the events that lead us to celebrate I would be a quivering wreck with no hope for eternity.
I hate preparing for Christmas, I don’t enjoy shopping and I’m pretty hopeless at buying gifts, especially this year on a very tight budget. I was considering what to get my granddaughter, girls still play with dolls don’t they? So I Google “dolly”. Apparently a dolly is a wooden platform with four wheels. I try again a “play dolly”, I won’t tell you what came up this time, but it certainly wasn’t suitable for a child. Eventually I get dolls, do I want a fashion doll or a nurturing doll? A nurturing doll? Who started calling them that. Who does the nurturing, the doll or the child?

You can imagine the scene .Santa ” And what would you like for Christmas little girl?”, “Oh Santa I want a nurturing doll.” Hmm, do you know how much a doll that needs a bottle costs? Over 30 quid!! What happened to nice little dollies to bath and dress?

Why do we feel so pressured to supply expensive presents? I have been without mainstream TV for the last 4 months, LFS’s partner kindly wired me up this week. The first thing that struck the children and I was the adverts. We had been advert free, only picking programmes on iplayer that we wanted. Now we were bombarded with beautiful scenes of luxuriously decorated rooms with heaps of delicious food. It all looks fantastic, and I imagine would be wonderful to experience. But, and I ‘m not going to rant on about the commercialism of Christmas. I like anyone else would like the perfect tree with a steaming golden turkey on the table and loads of colourful presents to unwrap, but this is reality and it won’t happen. I know in my heart it would cause such guilt and that it would be hard to live with, as I consider the homeless and people in third world countries. I don’t need these things but sometimes for a few seconds I get very selfish!

I was reading Credo in the “Saturday Times” this week,this article written by Sheila Watson (Archdeacon of Canterbury) She writes “We go to enormous lengths to protect Christmas- nothing must spoil it. We want a temporary halt in family arguments and worldwide horrors….The power of the Christmas story lies not in its human perfection-for there is none- but in its divine imperfection……..This child, this Christmas comes to offer deep peace in the God who is with us for better for worse, in sickness and in health.”

What a gift we have been given ,it’s yours for the asking, a nurturing God who will stick with us no matter what, and guess what He is absolutely free!