Follow the Clues

"Dip your pen in your arteries and write!" William Allen White's directive always gets my creative juices rolling. The idea is, write what you know, and write with passion.

Janet Wong, featured in the O Magazine article, "Are You Listening to Your Life?" (January 2001), worked 60-hour weeks as a lawyer because she had to. Now she works 60-hour weeks because she wants to. She writes books with rich pictures and powerful words for children and young adults. "Throughout my life, the universe has been giving me clues," Wong said. "I just didn't see them."

I would rephrase that: "Throughout my life, God has been giving me clues." He created me on purpose and with a purpose, as He did you. We are most successful when we operate in conjunction with God's plans (Jeremiah 29:11). Clues can even surface in childhood. My oldest granddaughter, Megan, loves animals, zoos, and Sea World. Her room is a jungle (and I'm not saying she's messy). She toys with the idea of becoming a zookeeper or a veterinarian. Could these childhood clues predict her future?

It wouldn't be my passion, but my husband's sister, Jan, loves her job as a financial advisor. She says, "When you're exercising your passion, you experience the greatest amount of fulfillment with the least amount of frustration." Motivational expert John Maxwell wrote, "Find your passion and follow it. That is all the career advice you will ever need." Working in passion helps me look forward to Mondays, get more done, and do a better job. Passion is powerful.

If you do not have the luxury of working in your passion, you can still choose to use your unique gifts and strengths in your current job. God may engineer a change, so stay alert and follow the clues as He reveals them.


Priming the Pump

Gratitude is a choice, an important life-balancing choice. Without gratitude, we can take the blessings of life for granted, and forget the ultimate Source of our blessings.

I remember the day my grandpa introduced me to an old outdoor pump. "Watch me, Dawnie Babe," he said, "I have to prime the pump." When I looked confused, he started pumping the handle hard, coaxing water to rise from the earth.

These days, we speak of government "priming the pump" by taking action to stimulate the economy through cut taxes or reduced interest rates. To prime a pump is to use a strategy to drive something positive to happen.

So it is with gratitude. Sometimes we need to prime the pump of our gratitude by asking questions:

  • What do I have this thanksgiving that I didn't have a year ago?
  • Who are the people in my life that bless me?
  • Where has God allowed me to serve, and how were lives changed as a result?
  • When did I see God at work in my life?
  • How did God change my heart...my attitudes...my thoughts?
  • Why do I love the Lord more today than when I first met Him?

The classic scripture for priming our spiritual pump is Psalm 103:1-2. David says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul...and forget not all his benefits." Throughout the psalm, David lists some of those benefits: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, good things, renewed youth, etc.

Yet, as wondrous as God's blessings are, the Apostle Paul invites us to a higher standard. We are simply to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). Our gratitude is not dependent on what we have or enjoy, but on Who we have and enjoy...God Himself.


'Grammy Camp'

I never expected to be this busy as a midlifer. I always dreamed I'd be just like my Grandma Parks, sewing and baking cookies. But God had other plans: college at age 50; a new ministry at 56; a crazy-packed writing and speaking calendar. I find that I have to be proactive and schedule-in time for my granddaughters. Schedule them in? Oh, that sounds so horrible; but it is my reality. The point is, I care about my granddaughters, and I want to be a part of their lives. They must be a priority! That's my goal, even when I fail so miserably sometimes in meeting it.

So, once in a while, I plan something fun. In October, it was "Grammy Camp." I cleared away all the breakables from the living room and gave the girls blankets and clothes pins. We designed a "campground" in the living room, draping the blankets over chairs, a small table, and the coffee table. We even added a flag. Then we turned out the lights, crawled into our "tent," and told stories by the light of a flashlight. We ate microwave S'mores and laughed. I prayed for them, told them how much I love them, and that I just knew God had wonderful plans for their lives. I prayed for their husbands, growing up somewhere in the world.

Children (and grandchildren) are indeed God's "heritage" (Psalm 127:3). His righteousness is not for us only, but "to our children's children" (Psalm 103:17). Motivational expert Steven Covey said there are "two lasting bequests we can give our children." One is roots and the other is wings. We can give those same gifts to our grandchildren. My granddaughters may not remember "Grammy Camp," but I hope they will never forget, "Grammy loves me and she prayed for me."

Bless your grandchildren, and point them to the Lord. And if you're not a grandparent, you can still create God-ward memories to bless your family, co-workers, and friends.


Guts, Not 'Goo'

In every challenge, whether faced with temptation or struggling with a burdensome circumstance, we have a choice: we can face our challenge with guts, or we can dissolve into mushy goo. "Guts" is another word for courage.

Courage might be as simple as turning off the television when programs are evil, choosing a modest blouse instead of a fashionable low-cut one, or staying in a difficult marriage. Anne Ortlund, in Because I Said Forever, said of that last choice: "The world says quit, but ask God for staying power. [Ask] for determination, patience, 'gutsy' courage to survive and survive well."

It takes guts to stand firm and make tough choices. It takes guts to turn our backs on the evils of our culture. It takes guts to face down our own fears and insecurities and act on biblical truth. While most of us do not have to face what Paul endured under great persecution (yet), each one of us deals with cultural challenges to our integrity, character, and purity. Our challenge is to embrace Joshua 1:8-9. We must obey God's Word and "be strong and of good courage," confident of His God's work in our lives.

The Apostle Paul had guts. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-23 to see the record of this strong "fool" for Christ. Paul endured prison, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, robbers, pain, and severe lack. His courage and strength rested in two great truths: God's amazing grace, and his own desire to glory in infirmities and weaknesses so he could experience more of Christ's power (12:9-10).

To overcome the spirit of fear and act in courage, choose to move forward in God's power, rest secure in His love, and think clearly with a disciplined, biblical world view (2 Timothy 1:7).