Friday, September 6, 2019

Dealing with Change - Part 1 - Finding Direction

Mid July I retired from a California state prison, where I served as chaplain.  The five years I spent there were transformational for me. Learning to work with inmates was quite different from pastoring a local church.  I poured my heart into it, and loved the contribution I was privileged to make, both for inmates and the institution as a whole.

Two weeks later we had moved out of our house, two more weeks we worked on preparing our fifth wheel, and finally we were more or less ready to hit the road!  So the big adventure finally started, August 17, 2019! (For those who do not know, our plan is to travel North America in our fifth wheel, initially for 12-18 months).

Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!
Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!

This has been quite a transition for both Dianne and myself.  It was like running at 60 mph and then coming to an abrupt stop!  Suddenly, a lot of the structure of life was removed. We miss our ministry at the prison, the busyness of life, we miss having a stationary house with room to put things (!), and the backyard we loved.  We miss the routines we had become settled into, our friends living close by, and the familiarity of our little town, Susanville CA. This does not mean we regret our decision to follow this road, we are excited about our future.  The point is, there has been a lot of change.

But we are not alone.  I think all of us experience change in life.  There are the normal changes that happen, like finishing school, leaving home, getting married, going to college, and so many other things.  Some changes are voluntary, some are involuntary. We may choose to find a better job, with improved prospects or a higher salary. Or we may be downsized, and found ourselves searching for a new position out of necessity.

Change is awkward, and can be difficult to negotiate.  In this series, we are going to look at some keys to dealing with change.  The first and most important key is from where we seek direction.

Key 1:  Find direction

Proverbs tells us: "Without vision the people perish" (1).  We seem to have an inner need for wanting to know where we are going.  But did you know that the word translated vision in this verse, actually has to do with prophetic revelation from God, rather than traditional vision-casting and goal-setting?  We need God to define the direction of our life, not just us making our own plans. Another verse that speaks to this tells us "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord" (2).  Also, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths" (3).

So how can we make this practical?  

The initial thing to remember is that wherever we are in our walk with God, when we turn to him, he listens and responds.  

Maybe we have not yet experienced the excitement of seeing God's direct involvement in our activities, and don’t really expect God to listen to us. In these verses God invites us to turn to him, acknowledge him in the things we do, recognize him as who he is, and that we ask him to direct our paths.  

What will this look like?  Whereas before we may have not been all that interested in God, we may now feel a new interest in knowing him better.  We may look back on our life and decide we want our future to be different, more purposeful, honorable, straight. Acknowledging God as being bigger than us, and able to change the direction of our lives, is a starting point.  

On the other hand, maybe we have known God for a while, but are at a loss for which direction to choose, when we face a crossroads.  We want our life direction to be in sync with God's purposes. The starting point in finding out what God's plan is for our life, is to ask him to direct our path.

I used to wonder, how do I know if I am going the direction God has planned for me, or if I am doing things according to my own human wisdom.  A pastor friend gave me some good advice regarding this. If I ask God to direct my paths, then I can trust him that he will do so. So I make decisions as to the direction I need to go, on the basis of trusting that God is directing me.  I also consider what biblical principles are involved, and live a life that is obedient to God. Then I can trust and believe that the Lord is guiding me. There are more things to consider, which we will examine in this short series of posts, but the starting point is to acknowledge God and seek his direction.

The next post is going to be about Making a Plan!  Watch this space!  

On the journey with you,

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

P.S.  If you recognize you need to turn the direction of your life over to God, why don't you pray this simple prayer.  Pray with sincerity and the Lord will listen and respond:

"Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place, so that my sins can be forgiven.  I ask you to cleanse me, and wash away my sins.  I surrender my life to you, asking you to direct my steps.  Please send your Holy Spirit to empower me to live the life you have called me to.  I pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen".

1.  Proverbs 29:18  
2.  Psalm 37:23   3.  Proverbs 3:6