Directionless in Dallas

            I am what my family affectionately describes as “directionally challenged”.  I was born with a complete and utter lack of a sense of direction.  As far as I am concerned, north is whatever direction I happen to be facing at the time.  I have an unshakable belief that it is hereditary, (my uncle suffers from the same affliction), no matter what my father says. 

            Regardless of the cause, because I suffer from this particular disability, I never drive anywhere without detailed instructions and maps from the internet.  Imagine my delight when, on a trip to Dallas with some girlfriends, I was introduced to GPS!  You tell it where you are and where you want to go and it figures out how to get you there!  What a delightful little magic box!

            It has a very nice voice that tells you where to turn, as opposed to the ones that typically come rudely from the back seat.  And if, for some entirely unavoidable reason, you should miss a turn, does the GPS have a conniption and cast disparaging remarks on your mental capacity?  No!  Does it whine about being dizzy?  No!  It very calmly tells you, “Recalculating route”.  That’s all, just “Recalculating route”.

            Wow!  No more guesswork, no more squinting to see microscopic street signs, no more driving around in circles because, “I’m sure it’s just down here!”  What freedom from maps that simply refuse to re-fold, shuffled MapQuest pages, and hand scribbled directions that have sudden become ancient Sanskrit.

            “Wouldn’t it be amazing,” I mused, “If my life’s journey had a GPS?  Something that would help me stay on the right track”.

            In a sense, those of us who know God, do have a GPS for our life’s journey.  Holy Spirit knows where we are supposed to be going and exactly how to get us there.  The Bible tells us in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’.”  All we have to do is listen for His voice.

            Unfortunately, most of us put more trust in a magic GPS box than we do in God.  Why is that I wonder?  Perhaps it’s because the “still, small voice” gets drowned out by the busyness of our lives.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t recognize the voice as His.  Perhaps it’s because He wants to take us off the beaten path.  Whatever the reason, we all take many unplanned detours in our life’s journeys.

            The beautiful thing is that as soon as we realize we’ve missed a turn, we can stop and turn around and ask God to show us the right path again.  And without recriminations, Holy Spirit simply tells us, “Recalculating route”.

Plan A, Plan B, Plan…

A while back I had the opportunity to take a wood-turning class through my local Arts Program. It was incredible to be able to take a piece of rough wood, and transform it into a beautiful and functional item. On the last day of class, the students each got to pick out a piece of wood and decide what they wanted to make out of it. I chose a big chunk of ash. I wanted a large piece because I wanted to make a short, wide bowl that had a small opening in the top. I measured and planned and marked, and then I began.

As the wood spun and I applied the tool, big chunks of bark flew off like torpedoes. After the bark came the long, curly shavings of wood til the floor at my feet was carpeted with fragrant ringlets. As the bowl began to take shape the tool suddenly caught on something and the piece of wood flew out of the lathe. I chased it down, anxious that it might have cracked on impact. As I wiped off the sawdust and wood chips, I noticed a small hole in the side. That’s what had caught the tool and sent the wood flying. The instructor came over and looked at the hole. He said that an insect had bored into the tree at some point and that as the tree grew the hole had been covered over with new growth. He poked a tool inside the hole and discovered that it was quite deep and at an angle.

“You can still make a bowl,” he said, “You’ll just have to work around the flaw,”

“But I wanted to make a big, round bowl!” I protested.

“Sometimes you get to decide what you’re making,” he said with a smile, “And sometimes the wood does.”

I thought about that as he handed the wood back and I reattached it to the lathe. As I worked the wood, cutting around the flaw, the bowl began to take on a beautiful shape. One that I would never have designed into a bowl. It became smaller than I had wanted, and was narrow on the bottom. The sides curved up and out to form a wide top. I hollowed it out and sanded it smooth. And I think it’s just beautiful.

Now, my small, flared bowl sits on my writing desk. I keep it there to remind me that my plans are not always the right plans. My life has certainly not turned out the way I planned it when I was young. Sometimes I feel like I’m on Plan Z! When I get frustrated because things aren’t going “right”, I look at the bowl. Then I ask Father to reveal His plan for me in the present circumstances. And you know what? Just like The A-Team, with Father there is no Plan B! Plan A is all we ever need. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” And although my life has not unfolded along my plan, it is a richer and deeper life than I could have ever imagined before. Now at those times when miracles happen (often disguised as coincidence), if I listen real hard I can almost hear a deep chuckle and a voice from heaven saying, “I LOVE IT when a plan comes together!”