Bucket lists, God’s Plans, and the Redwood Forest

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

When is the last time you checked something BIG off your bucket list? This month, after years of dreaming about walking through the redwood forest in California, I finally did it. It was awesome.

Did you know California’s North Coast redwoods are THE tallest trees in the world? They are also some of the very oldest living things — some species are over 3,000 years old! Just let that sink in a minute…

The forest I visited was part of California’s Redwood National and State Parks. Wandering through this forest of towering green giants certainly provides a real life perspective on our small size in this big world.

On my trip, I learned some interesting facts about redwoods to share with you. These facts helped me think about God’s plans, not only for these redwoods, but for each of us. Come along, walk with me.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. 

Coastal redwoods are hardy trees. They can grow just about anywhere. But, they only grow into their massive potential along the California coastline. Why? In California, the cool, wet, and foggy conditions allow the tree’s needles to draw in necessary nutrients from the air’s moisture which nurtures the tree to grow up, up, up. In other climates, these redwoods can only get nourishment through their roots. Tree circulation systems cannot pump high enough to sustain a huge coastal redwood elsewhere. Nutrients must also come from the environment to grow that tall.

Like the redwoods, God also places us in conditions for ideal growth. If we think back upon the events of our life, we can see how relationships, opportunities, and challenges occurred to strengthen us. We are different from trees because we can choose whether we soak up the nourishment around us — whether we look for and pursue God’s direction in our days. God provides the climate for us to grow into the tallest plans he has for us. He puts us in places that can help us reach our true potential. 

They are plans for good and not for disaster

With bark up to a foot thick on some trees, the coastal redwood is strong and tough. The denseness of its bark is just one trait among many which make this tree so unusual. When exposed to fire, the outer layer chars into a barrier or heat shield, protecting the tree from destruction. Pests, like ants and termites, find redwoods unappealing or poisonous, so they do not harm it. Even damaging floodwaters and creek beds are no match for this wood’s survival. Redwood resists water-related rotting; wood that is thousands of years old is found underwater by well drillers in sturdy shape.

California’s redwoods face enemies of fire, pests, and water, but they thrive regardless. Their natural composition allows them to survive and grow into the world’s tallest trees. Similarly, our lives are full of difficult conditions. But our God, the God who equips the redwoods for their good destiny, equips us to withstand this world’s trouble as well.

God does not wish disasters upon us. In this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). But, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). God created us out of love and for a relationship with him. The strength of this relationship comes from faith in him. Faith gives us sure hope and prods us to seek God’s good through everything that happens to us.

To give you a future and a hope. 

Okay, so here’s the clincher: when a live coast redwood tree (Sequoia Sempervirens species) falls in the forest it can regenerate itself into new life. The fallen tree can keep growing through its limbs or branches. The upright limbs eventually turn into a new row of trees. Similarly, circular groups of new trees can grow out of redwood stumps. The genetic information in the cells of a new tree is identical to each of the others, and to the tree they sprang from. The fallen tree truly has everlasting life.

If God’s plans for the redwoods are good and full of hope, how could they be anything less for us? He has plans for our future, and he is never unsure about how to get us there. We can trust him.

As we grow in faith, the care and guidance he provides become more clear. He stays beside us when we muddle along, when we celebrate, when we endure, and when we mourn. God delivers hope through all conditions and ultimately, through Jesus’ sacrifice, he promises us an eternal life.

Do you think maybe the things we write on our bucket lists arise from inside us for reasons greater than we can imagine? I went to the redwood forest to see the tall, beautiful trees. I left inspired to think about God’s plans and the way he cares for us. He delivers messages in the most amazing ways.

I think God must smile big when we check something off our bucket list. Like he is checking something off too. Perhaps he planned it that way? He is so good. Press on in faith, my friends!

Dear God,

Thank you for the plans you have for us and for the many blessings you give. You place us in the best conditions for maximum growth. The people, events, and opportunities you place in our path encourage us to keep moving ahead. Help us stand tall, strong, and steady as we grow in relationship with you. Give us the courage to do what we need to and the patience to hope in your ways. Grant us wisdom to see how you are always working good, even through hard things. May we live our days here full of your peace, and forevermore in the glory of your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

Note:

I would love to hear about something on your bucket list. If you have checked something off recently, were there ways you felt God was there with you? Write me a note in the comments or on my “Contact Me” page.

Related Posts:

Embracing God’s Plan

Psalm 23: A Shepherd’s Meanings and Motivations

Where Joy Flows From

Inspiring Resources:

treesofmystery.net

Notice Me: Our Quest to Matter

Notice me. Two simple words. Like a broken record this phrase plays unspoken in our minds throughout our lives. During our youth, it shakes us at full volume as we search for acceptance from classmates and look for love. In mid-life, it annoyingly chants at us while we work hard to achieve career goals and possibly to raise a likable family. As we progress in years, the “notice me” noise might quiet down along with life’s demands. Or, it could ramp up as we worry about being cared for and our legacy.

Whatever phase of life we are in, it is likely that a “Notice Me” soundtrack is playing in some way. We confront a natural human desire to be noticed by our family, friends, love interests, colleagues, employers, communities, and social media.

Knowing that we matter is important to us. Our culture tells us to get affirmation we must stand out, be glamorous, and accomplish extraordinary things. We can easily get off track and become consumed by quests to be noticed.

Do you find yourself getting caught up in the rat race for attention and acceptance? Do you feel torn about how much to promote your work, family, or volunteer efforts? After all, sometimes being noticed can bring good things, not only for yourself, but for others and for God. How do we figure out where our boundaries are?

Lately, I found myself wrestling with these questions as I worked through a decision in my life. In thinking about what to do, this Scripture verse came to mind:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)

This Scripture is part of Paul the Apostle’s letter to Thessalonian Christians. In this portion of the letter, Paul’s words are written as a guide on how to live a life that honors Christ. He lays out three goals for Christians to pursue:

Live a quiet life…

A quiet life, huh? Most of our lives are brimming with physical, mental, and emotional challenges from ourselves and others.

In Paul’s time, life was also anything but quiet. The Thessalonians faced constant threats of being persecuted for their beliefs and many died young. Their lives were full of worry and sadness.

So, what did Paul mean by a quiet life? Obviously, then and now, most people cannot leave their daily lives behind to inhabit a peaceful tropical island. And, most would not stop pursuing their goals even if it meant things quieted down. Ups and downs and turmoil continue to be part of life. So, when we can’t change our circumstances, we change how we react to them.

We set limits on our involvement in drama and aspire to live peaceably with everyone. Providing ourselves enough time for rest and thought helps us not overreact in situations. Exercise, healthy food, and personal care cultivates an environment for calm virtues and an even-temperament to grow.

Spending time with God hushes the world around us and motivates us to take care of ourselves. In quiet moments God can help us discover how to handle our relationships and what our energies should be applied to. The world around us will not provide a quiet life, but spending time with God helps us create one. 

Mind your own business…

The preoccupation humans have with each others’ lives began long before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nosy neighbors, gossiping acquaintances, preachy know-it-alls, and better-than-you busybodies have always existed. Social platforms are just new tools of the trade.

Not minding our own business starts innocently enough through curious conversations and pre-conceived notions. The subject arises again, maybe while chatting with someone at work or at a coffee house. We just thought others should know. Or, we want to get another opinion. Then perhaps, we do a little more Google investigating and justify it to ourselves.

The process is so subtle, so sly that we may not even notice it happening. But, it does. Our curiosity, our enthusiasm to be in-the-know, and our simple unawareness overtakes us. We slip quickly down the slopes of boasting, gossiping, obsessing, comparing, judging, envying, etc. It’s not a fun fall; we feel it in our gut.

Paul warns the Thessalonians to mind their own business. God crafted us uniquely for specific purposes. He does not compare us. Each of us has the capacity to love God and to love others in different and amazing ways. If we are always preoccupied with everyone else, then we cannot discern what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in us. Rather than focusing time and energy on the lives of others, God asks us to devote ourselves to learning from him and helping his plans unfold in our lives.

And work with your hands…

At the time Paul wrote this letter, some Thessalonians mistakenly believed that Christ’s second coming would be immediate, so many of them became lazy and relied on others to fulfill their needs. Manual labor was also often avoided because the Greek culture deemed it an unworthy cause. So, Paul reminds his audience to put their hands to work for whatever cause God has called them to. Respect from others is not earned by remaining idle.

Paul’s lesson applies to our lives today also. The work we can do for God waits in our careers, our homes, and elsewhere. It might involve the use of our hands literally, meaning we actually build, drive, cook, draw, write, dig, etc. And, it might mean the work of our hands metaphorically, as we brainstorm, crunch numbers, manage teams, make decisions, help people, etc.

Whatever the effort, our mission should be to think about what God wants to do through us. How has he gifted us to love and serve others? While working for him we need to mindfully consider our motivations. Are they self-serving or God-serving? By demonstrating God’s love in action, we will naturally draw others closer to him.  

Do you see a pattern emerging from understanding this Scripture? In helping the Thessalonians learn how to live Christ centered lives, all three of Paul’s goals focus on one thing – stop seeking the world’s attention and start inviting God’s attention.

Spending time with God builds a quiet life. Exploring our own personal instructions from him helps us keep everyone else’s business in perspective. And, displaying God, his love, and his good causes to the world is the quest that matters.

Let’s hit pause on the distracting “Notice Me” soundtrack playing in our heads. Then, let’s crank up the volume on “Notice Him”. It is such a better tune. Press on in faith my friends.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for watching out for me and calling my attention to the slick spots in my life. There are times when life sweeps me away in dangerous currents of things like judgement, worry, and envy. Help me rise above all the forces battling for my attention and see the ways you rescue me. Teach me how to build a quiet life for myself in the time I devote to you. Remind me to direct more energy toward the things you are doing in my life instead of evaluating the lives of others. Guide me as I strive to reveal my love for you every day through the work that I do. May the people I meet notice you instead of me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen  

Standing Out
by Jamie Trunnel

When is the last time you stood out?
When you felt loved without a doubt?

This world, it is a fickle place.
There’s no rest from its race.

Be better, be smarter, be wiser they say.
Then, we will applaud you at the end of the day.

God says let me help you
Build a quiet life.
Spend time with me,
See how peace conquers strife.

God says avoid busy chatter.
Trust what I can do.
Mind my promises,
Listen for a word or two.

God says your hands are my tools.
Work for my glory.
Others will respect you
And, be drawn to my story.

God says I know the last time you stood out.
Yesterday, tomorrow, and today.
I love you,
There is no doubt.

 

Other related posts:

How to Perform for an Audience of One

Judged instead of Loved

Love on Ordinary Days

Embracing God’s Plan

Good books related to this topic:

Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. Print.

Ehman, Karen. Keep It Shut. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. Print.

Lucado, Max. Great Day Every Day. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Print.

*Note: All photos with the exception of the flowers/fence photo are courtesy of Pixabay.

Do We Disappoint God?

Perfection is a tall order on this broken planet. This becomes very clear in the middle of January when goals for improvement start veering off the course we charted for 2017. We cheat on diets, take a break from the gym, skip a weekend at church, spend money when we shouldn’t, drink too much caffeine, stop trying to meditate…(um, feel free to contribute at any time so I don’t feel so alone).

We are an odd species. One day we are full of optimism and vigor, and the next we are easily derailed by unexpected challenges or our own behavior. Letting ourselves down by breaking resolutions can easily lead to some disappointment. Often, we even grow accustomed to this feeling and shrug it off.

But, what about deeper flaws in our character that persist over the years? What if we make some big mistakes that change the course of our life and maybe even the lives of those around us? What if our mistakes are considered sins? How do we cope with those levels of disappointment? Does God feel disappointed in us too? Will he give up on us if we make a really big mistake?

God understands how hard this life is.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 New Living Translation (NLT)

When God chose to reveal himself as Jesus he took on the hardships of human life. He sympathizes with our feelings and temptations because he endured them as well. He knows firsthand how difficult this life is to maneuver. He provides us hope because he faced the things we face, and he got through them without sin. We can look to his life for encouragement and strive to follow the example he set.

God chose to forgive us.   

Christianity believes that God wipes away sin and reconciles his relationship with us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Certainly, not every setback or mistake is a sin. Sin is an ugly, tough word. I don’t like the way it feels when I write it. But, the fact is we all sin. Jesus was the only perfect person to walk on Earth. It was his sacrifice that brings us forgiveness when we acknowledge, confess, and repent our sin to God.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT

Jesus took God’s wrath on the cross and called it done, finished, paid in full. Sin no longer separates believers from God. Trusting in his care provides a fresh start and secures our future with him.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 New International Version (NIV)

God loves us. He has plans for us.

What remains for us as a result of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for sin is God’s unconditional love. We can’t earn it. We can’t change it. We can’t lose it. We don’t deserve it, but we have it. Forever.

We cannot surprise, frustrate, or let God down. Because he already knows what is ahead.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

God may be disappointed for us, but not in us.

 

Of course, we have free will and therefore, we will probably make choices that lead us off course from time to time. In those instances, God may be disappointed for us, but not in us. He wanted something better for us because he loves us. But, in those moments when all we see is failure, God still sees opportunity. He uses our trouble to bring about good and to draw us closer to him. He extends grace.

And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

We are flawed, but not forgotten.

God never forgets or dismisses us in times of trouble. It is never too late to seek his help and reassurance in our lives. We can start viewing problems as alerts for prayer and build a stronger relationship with him. An insightful look at our past experiences will show us how his good works pulled us through. We can reference Scripture for wisdom in any circumstance, temptation, and emotion we face. Lastly, we can obediently act when we sense his guidance encouraging us along a certain path.

This year, like every year, difficulties will come our way. We need willpower, forgiveness, and stamina among many other things to make it through. Sin, mistakes, and unwanted flaws will persist. We will make choices. What a blessing it is to be able to make choices!

One choice we have is whether or not we will work on our relationship with God. We can choose if we allow our trouble to lead us further away from him or draw us closer to him. He has a preference in that choice, but he loves us either way.

God will always pursue you. You are not forgotten.

 

A Prayer for Your Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for seeing me as I am and loving me unconditionally. I sin, make mistakes, and I am full of flaws, but you never forget about me. When I feel disappointed you stand beside me and encourage my heart to constantly seek more of you. Help me find the reassurance I need through past experiences, prayer, Scripture, and the opportunities you send my way. I trust you and patiently wait as you work in and through me, ultimately bringing all things together for my good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 A Few Scriptures of Hope to Battle Messages of Defeat:

  • When we say: “I really messed up today.”

Scripture tells us to try again tomorrow: Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23 NLT

  • When we say: “Everybody is doing more or better than me.”

Scripture reminds us of our unique abilities: Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. Galatians 6:4 NLT

  • When we say: “I’ll never get it right. I can’t do it. It’s too hard.”

Scripture offers a lighter load: Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 NLT

  • When we say: “I’m confused, lost, broken, and giving up.”

Scripture provides hope: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Matthew 10:27 NIV

Inspiring Resources:

Embracing God’s Plan

 

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Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I am working on accepting this as a good thing. Like many of you, I enjoy the satisfaction that comes with meeting deadlines and crossing items off to-do lists. I get frustrated and negative when my accomplishments fall short of my goals. Then, it takes awhile for my motivation to rebound and to get back up to speed.

But, life interferes with the best laid plans and the strongest of ambitions. Unanticipated problems occur, accidents happen, people need our help, the weather changes, income declines, health issues arise…and so it goes.

There are days, weeks, months, and seasons in life when we feel like we can never do enough and we will never be enough. We wonder if God really has a plan for our life and an agenda for each day. How do we accomplish his plan when all these problems keep slowing us down? Why doesn’t he help us out a little more?

Recently, I took these questions to Scripture and found reassurance. When things don’t go according to plan it can be a good thing. It can be a God thing. Here are a handful of truths to help us welcome God’s plan in our days:

  • God is sure of his plan for us.    

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

God made a plan for our lives even before we were born. He continually works in our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit to encourage our faith in his plan to grow. He leads us to try new things, puts teachers in our path, and instills confidence in our abilities. He nudges us to consider how the gifts he gave us might help others find faith and feel loved.

The decisions we make and the paths we take do not surprise God. He is there for us always, through everything that comes our way. He does not promise a life free of suffering, but he fills his believers with hope, and ultimately he brings good from all their hardships.

Of course, our free will allows us to embrace or resist God’s plans for us. But, he never stops pursuing and trying to reach us. His love for every one of his children is unconditional and unrelenting. Our humanity loves shortcuts, but there are no shortcuts to understanding God’s plan. Ultimately, understanding God’s plan requires understanding God.

As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late to invest time in getting to know God. Like any other relationship, we get to know God by spending time with him. This means spending time studying the Bible, reading Biblical interpretations, learning from pastors, and discussing faith questions with others. The more we learn about God, the clearer our role in his story becomes.

Embracing God’s plan means we commit to developing a relationship with him in our daily life.

  • God’s plan differs from our own.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

Oh, how we love the illusion of control. We get so caught up in busily achieving our goals that we can forget God may have an entirely different strategy in mind. He will not conform to our purposes; we need to strive to fit into his.

Throughout our lifetimes, we will cope with a myriad of difficulties perceived as obstacles in the way of achieving our dreams. Maybe these difficulties are not really problems, but possibilities God puts on the agenda to carry out an even bigger plan.

Perhaps God allows difficulty to enter our lives to capture our attention, to encourage us to check our direction, and to build a relationship of trust with him. Once we realize we cannot control our life, we start to contemplate and even anticipate the opportunities God sends our way.

Embracing God’s plan means we work on being flexible, good-natured, and inquisitive when unexpected events change our daily agendas. 

  • God promises to fulfill his plan.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

God’s work for us began when Christ died and offered us eternal life. His work continues within us through the Holy Spirit during our lifetimes, up until the moment we die. As faith grows, God helps his believers discover their talents and gifts which help carry out his plans.

Those slight nudges we get to serve others are also the Holy Spirit’s way of directing us down God’s path. Through our offerings of food, clothing, money, shelter, prayer, talents, friendship, etc. we deepen our faith and help the faith of those around us grow.

When we feel like we are not making any progress, it helps to remember God’s promise to finish his work. By diligently seeking and including him in our lives, we give him the green light to go to work. He will not give up on us.

Embracing God’s plan means remembering each of us is a good work in progress, and God promises to complete every one of his projects.   

  • God will always help us.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Fear and worry are part of our world. There’s no getting around that. God knew this, and thus packed the Bible full of his strength and compassion for us. When we feel stressed, the Bible is the greatest resource for renewal. We can find Scriptures and stories that relate to any situation and bring us guidance.

God also sends help in a multitude of other ways such as people, prayer, intuition, and events. When facing trouble, tuning into the world around us (instead of tuning out) opens up our eyes to the ways God helps us. We naturally start developing the trusting attitude God desires – that he is working all things together for our good, in his own time and way.

There will always be days when we wonder if God knows what he’s doing. Days when we are at the end of our rope and frustrated by our trials. God’s Word tells us time and time again, do not worry. He is always there for us. He loves us, and he holds us up.

Embracing God’s plan means reaching out to him for help and trusting him to follow through.

God makes an agenda for every one of our days. This agenda often will not match what we have planned. But, that’s okay. God’s plans are good and far beyond what we could ever imagine. We can meet each day with an air of expectancy, and be ready to embrace the opportunities God sends. For we know, there is a lot of work to be done in and through us. We fight against fear and worry because we trust God’s promises to help us. Rest assured, one day, he will raise up our hands, victorious in his plans.

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A Prayer for You:

Dear God,

Thank you for creating me with a plan in mind. Help me learn more about your goals for my life as I grow in faith. Teach me to remain flexible in my schedule and to see my problems as your possibilities. Thank you for trusting me with the assignments you have given me, and for your reassurances that I can handle them. Lead me as I work to conquer worries and fears, and as I strive to make you proud. May the first item on my to-do list always be: “whatever God hands me.”

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

A New Kind of Resolution

2014 NYE in Times Square

Ahhhh, a new year! January 1st. Just speaking the date invokes a sense of renewal, doesn’t it? A time to evaluate priorities, nurture goals, and begin a quest toward organization. Like a schoolgirl in fall, the outing to purchase my new 2016 planner is a mission in itself. It must be a certain size, with tabs (very important) for each month, a section for future year plans, and pages for notes.

These requirements are non-negotiable. I have tried to manage with different formats in previous years, and well, the frustration…it’s just not worth it. I have a system to my madness; and for the year to start right, I must sort through shelves of calendars to find just the right one. A beacon in the piles of planners, it shines through, offering up its guarantee for a successful year. Do you understand this feeling? Maybe instead, you prefer sorting through the latest calendar apps on your phone, but, you know too, you will feel elated when you find the ONE certain to make this a great year.

We all have our tools and idiosyncrasies which we believe help us accomplish our goals for the coming year. Year after year, however, I learn that being organized and well-intentioned still leaves me falling short of achieving some goals. Over the holiday season I did some thinking on why that is.

I started by thinking about the goals I have set for myself in the past, which ones I was able to accomplish, and which ones I did not. Of course, sometimes I set myself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations like exercising every day and eliminating sugar (really, no way!). But, assuming realistic expectations, what did I find was the difference between achieved and unachieved goals?

Other people.

Whoa, you may say, she’s blaming other people for not allowing her to reach her goals! No, no…quite the opposite. I am taking responsibility for not involving other people in the pursuit of accomplishing my goals. You see, when we look at it from a scriptural point of view, the Bible tells us:

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 New International Version

Throughout the Bible, it becomes clear that God intends for us to thrive through fellowship with others. Too often in our busy lives, we fail to engage with the people around us. Absorbed with discovering our own talents, we easily forget that working together yields greater results for everyone.

Over the past several years, I have set a goal to deepen my faith. I received daily email devotions, attempted to understand the Bible, and tried to attend church more regularly. I convinced myself I was meeting my goal, but something still felt unsettled. This past year, I stopped taking baby steps and leaped into several classes with others who wanted to explore their faith.

Admitting my lack of Biblical knowledge was somewhat intimidating. And, putting a voice to the questions and doubts that plagued my sense of reason made me feel exposed and vulnerable. I quickly learned, however, that I was not alone in these feelings. Other people had them too. And, they brought life experiences and learning to the table that I had no way of imagining on my own.  So, through the give and take of conversation, we learned from each other and deepened our faith in ways none of us could have alone.

Evaluating my other goals, I started to see a pattern. Whenever I sought “advisers”, I was more likely to reach my goal.

After years of pathetic attempts at strength training on my own, I found success by enlisting the help of someone with years of experience (see post: A Fit Faith). Making good choices about food became easier once I started reading books and attending classes taught by a few well-educated and trusted health crusaders. Joining an online training community for writers this fall provided knowledge from a team of experts on how to improve. And lastly, participating in a supportive forum for parents with college-aged kids, helped me revamp my changing role as a parent.

In all these areas of my life, from faith to health to vocation to family and so on, pursuing fruitful relationships with others helped me grow beyond any measurable goal I could envision. In return, I discovered unique contributions I could offer these individuals or my community as well.

So, in 2015 I finally learned something really big that has always been right in front of me, but never completely apparent. The load for achieving my goals does not rest squarely upon my two shoulders. Actually, my goals cannot even be achieved to their greatest degree by me alone. As I write down my 2016 New Year’s resolutions, an overriding tenet will be remembering to surround myself with others who excel where I falter.

Seeking help from wise counsel always promises to bring forth God’s best work in all of us.

Prayer for the Week:

Lord, Thank you for the blessing of another new year and the opportunity to start anew. Help me set goals with realistic expectations, and bring me solitude to consider my relationships with others. Show me ways we can rely on each other to achieve results beyond measure. Teach me to listen for your guidance on seeking counsel, and lead me in becoming a trusted adviser for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.