God’s Plan Versus My Plan

The Bible is filled with stories of things that made no natural sense.

Yet, when things were done at the Direction of God, they turned out to be the stuff of miracles.

Naaman was an army commander, who was considered a great man. He had defeated many in battle, but he could not conquer the leprosy that overtook his body.

Through a series of twists and turns, he ended up with the prophet, Elisha, who gave him The Word from God.

“Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

“Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.”

2 Kings 5:10-12

Now before we find too much fault with Naaman, let’s stop and consider whether we have ever been in his shoes.

Many times in my life, when I have been in a jam, I knew how God could fix things. In fact, my prayers centered around what I wanted God to do to bring an immediate solution to my problem.

If it was a really big problem, I rounded up some “prayer partners” to “stand in agreement” with me. Sometimes my partners would add in some extra instructions for God to be sure He understood.

Then we “named and claimed” what we wanted and sealed the deal by saying “in Jesus’ Name.” We then waited expectantly for an immediate response from God.

If an immediate response was not forthcoming, we upped the ante and “prayed harder.” Sometimes I threw in what things I promised to do if only God would fix things as I wanted.

When He did not answer as I expected, I, like Naaman, was not happy. I whined. I reviewed my process. If I had followed what I believed to be the proper protocol, then I determined it must be God Who was the problem.

After a time of sulking, I gradually slid into “it’s just my cross to bear.” Of course, my testimony was, “See what I have to put up with when God won’t come through.”

Jesus Himself prayed in The Garden for the cup of suffering to pass from Him. He prayed passionately … so passionately blood fell from Him like sweat.

He asked His Disciples to be His Prayer Partners. They were not much help.

Jesus certainly prayed in His Name.

But Jesus also prayed in total submission to God’s Will.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Matthew 26:39

When I pray, I don’t want to even consider that what I am asking (or demanding) is not possible! Besides my just wanting it done, to say, “if it is possible” sounds like a lack of faith.

Is it a lack of faith or a lack of submission to God?

And after further prayer, when there was no indication The Plan was going to change, Jesus added, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your Will be done.”

Matthew 26:42

And in that moment, Jesus saw beyond the impending suffering to The Joy, not only His Own Joy, but The Collective Joy of the whole universe, who was going to receive His Gift.

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:2

And as for Naaman, when he finally bowed to God’s Will, he received a Life far beyond what he had before.

He dipped, not just once, but seven times in the Jordan River. I suspect with each dip, he felt more and more confident.

I imagine him being so overcome with Joy in The Presence of The Lord that he flipped and flopped around in the water, and forgot he had leprosy. And in fact, he could forget because he no longer had it.

“His flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

2 Kings 5:14

Whatever you are going through right now, know God has a Plan for you.

“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

But also know what else God says about His Plans.

“For My Thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My Ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My Ways higher than your ways and My Thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

So don’t be surprised when God comes up with a much better Plan than you could have ever imagined!

What If You Don’t Like God’s Plan?

https://carolynpriesterjones.org/2018/02/19/what-if-you-dont-like-gods-plan/

God Will Make A Way!

My parents were elderly, but able to live independently in their own home until one fateful day in 1997.

They left home as usual to go get groceries.  My mother had no idea when she closed the door that she was leaving her home of many years for the last time.  My father had no idea he would return there some weeks later alone.

They drove to the grocery store.  They did their usual creative way of shopping.  To conserve their strength, my mother took her shopping cart and collected the items from one side of the store, while my father took his cart and got the items from the other side.  They then met at the check out.

They then began the short drive back home.  On the way back, there was an accident and the car behind them hit them.

They were both hospitalized, but my mother’s injuries were severe enough she never recovered enough to come home.

She endured weeks of pain and declining health before she was promoted to her Heavenly Home.

My father was the self proclaimed pessimist in the family.  He said my mother always saw the flowers while he saw the weeds.

He said jokingly he read somewhere that the things you worry about never happen, so he tried to worry about everything he possibly could.

My mother never saw anything as impossible.  She frequently reminded us that with God, all things are possible.  She reminded us when the children of Israel were backed up against the Red Sea with their enemies in hot pursuit, God opened the sea and they passed through.

My mother was so filled with God’s Wisdom that people were drawn to her.  She made everyone she met feel special.

When she thought she would have to give up teaching Sunday School because she could no longer see well enough to prepare the lessons, the class begged her to continue.  They read the lessons out loud and waited eagerly for her comments.

And so, after the accident, as she lay on her bed of pain, my father fretted about the uncertain future.  She was not uncertain. She was certain God had The Plan and would reveal it in due time.

She said, “God has taken care of us all our lives.  How could we do anything, but trust Him now!”

When we were all begging God to heal her, she joined the prayer, but her prayer was different from ours.

She thanked God for everything she could think of.  Her prayers were filled with thanksgiving and praise.  She thanked God for all the times He had made a Way when there seemed to be no way.

She prayed for each family member and friend by name, thanking God for how we had each been an instrument of His Peace and Love.  She prayed Blessings on us in a future secured by God.

Never once did she question why she had been brought to the bed of pain.  Never once did she count herself a victim.  She was victorious because God was victorious through her.

She stayed on her mission assignment in two different hospitals before she was promoted to her Heavenly Home.  The doctors, nurses, housekeepers, visitors and others testified of her amazing witness in the midst of suffering.

When I come to the end of myself and I think there is no solution to my problems, I hear her voice, sweet and strong.  “Nothing is impossible with God.  He will make a Way.  He is The Way!”

”For nothing will be impossible with God!”

Luke 1:37

https://youtu.be/_rSWXf2Y4z0

The World’s Greatest Lover

For Valentines, I invite you to read about the world’s Greatest Lover.

Here is the link.

https://carolynpriesterjones.org/2017/02/15/the-greatest-lover/

The Grand Reunion In Heaven!

As a hospice nurse, I was at the bedside of many who crossed over to the other side.

There were more than a few who spoke with joy to those who had gone before them. I remember well the man who, in the midst of intense suffering, looked up, smiled and said, “Joe! What are you doing here?” He died shortly afterwards.

Joe was his brother, who had died several years earlier.

My cousins, John and Connie, had shared a long happy marriage. John died before Connie. Connie lived on until she was almost 100 years old. She often reflected on her memories of her life with John.

When Connie was near death, she said, “Oh I see him! I see John.” She was so happy, how could we do anything but rejoice with her!

When my sister in law died, my nephew puzzled over how she could be happy in Heaven without the family she loved so much being with her.

God then called his attention to 2 Peter 3:8, which says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

He said, “So maybe Mama knows we are still here, but she knows we will be there in a minute.” We all experienced great joy in that revelation!

My father grew up on a farm. When he was grown, he moved to town. But he went home every week to have supper with his parents.

He had a car that had a horn that was called a “mile away horn.” He could blow the horn when he was a mile from home and it was so loud his parents could hear him coming.

He said his mother would be waiting at the gate, so glad to see him. I told him I imagined she would be at The Gate Of Heaven, waiting for him when he got there. He liked that thought!

I believe those who have gone before us are still very near, but we do not see them in the same physical way as we did. They have changed form.

We find they are within us. When I say, “As my father or mother used to say …,” their words bring them back to life.

When I pass the mirror, and I look at my reflection, I sometimes catch a glimpse of them.

When I share memories with people who made those same memories with me when we were together with my parents, they are still in the midst of us.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” I believe those witnesses are those who have gone before us.

And I believe those “witnesses” will be eagerly waiting for us at The Gate Of Heaven. And we will be very visible to each other.

Perhaps, just as my grandmother heard my father’s mile away horn, they will hear the sound of the trumpet, announcing our approach, and they will rejoice in our homecoming.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54 says,

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory!”

And all the “witnesses” will say, “Welcome Home!”

Love To Last A Lifetime

There is something about mature, long lasting love that outshines the passions of young love.

My parents were married for 71 years. Jay’s parents were married for 63 years. They enjoyed life together, weaving a blanket of memories that warmed their last years and brought comfort to the one left on earth after the other was promoted to Heaven.

They survived wars, the depression, deaths, and numerous other challenges that caused major disruptions in life. When they got knocked down, they helped each other up and soldiered on together.

They saw each other change from young people into middle aged people and on into old age. They were still just as beautiful and handsome to each other as they always had been.

They were affectionate to the end, holding hands, hugging and kissing. As they aged, they were constantly at each other’s sides. They were there for the final earthly goodbyes.

They taught us how to live with God as The Center of Life. They taught us, not only with words, but through their lives. They prayed in front of us, they prayed with us, they prayed long distance. They asked us to pray for them.

Especially in their latter years, all four of them were transparent about the struggles they had experienced in trying to live a Godly Life. They shared honestly about their weaknesses, but affirmed with Joy how strong God was in lifting them up.

They acknowledged that relationship building that goes the distance takes work. It is a commitment to persistence. It takes being willing to sacrifice “me” for “us.” It is a Promise kept to always, always be there and never quit.

I still smile when I remember what my father told me about never giving up. When he was 96 years old, I told him I never really remembered he and my mother arguing much.

He laughed and said, “Oh, there were plenty of times when we didn’t agree. We’d get mad about something, usually something silly.”

I asked Daddy how they settled things. He said, “Well, I would get out and walk up town and back … and then we would try again. I was usually pretty tired by then, so I didn’t want to argue too much.”

I asked him if that happened very often. Again he laughed and said, “Well, it happened enough. How do you think I got to 96? It was all that exercise!”

Jay and I have been married for 42 years, a drop in the bucket next to our parents. But we have already shared a lifetime of experiences that have taught us and refined us in the fires to become who we are today.

We are blessed by the great legacy our parents left us, and we hope to be adding to the Jones story for as long as God allows us to be the Jones team together on earth.

May we all be blessed as our parents were, and as David described in Psalm 92: 12-14.

“Righteous people flourish like palm trees and grow tall like the cedars in Lebanon.

They are planted in the Lord’s house.

They blossom in our God’s courtyards.

Even when they are old, they still bear fruit.

They are always healthy and fresh.”

Friends

Tonight I am thinking of all those who have been my friends over the years.

Some of you were friends from childhood.

Some I met in college or through careers.

Some I met in churches or other small groups.

Some were and are neighbors.

Some of us shared dreams together, like writing, teaching or raising children.

Some friends were for a season. We shared life, but then went our separate ways. You are still an important part of my life, and I remember you.

I parted with some friends unwillingly, as they were promoted to Heaven. I still think of you and feel your smiles from above. I look forward to seeing you again.

Some friends were not only friends, they were family. We not only shared DNA, we shared life and made memories to keep forever.

And yes, I love my Facebook friends. While many of us know each other “in person,” some of you I met here. We discovered we had things in common after being introduced through others. I look forward to your comments and pictures. I love getting responses when I share.

You remind me of the wonder of how God created us to have much in common, and yet retain our own uniqueness.

And I think of what a Friend We Have In Jesus, one of my father’s favorite songs. Jesus valued His Friends too.

Jesus said, “I have called you FRIENDS, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Thank you for being my friend.

The Crossroads That Lead To Happiness

There are crossroads in life. Sometimes as we pause there, we sense that something is about to be different.

Whichever way we go, things will never again be the same. A curtain to the universe has been pulled back slightly. The wind has shifted. There is some awareness we did not have before.

It is a crossroad.

In the mid seventies, I was getting ready to return to my native South Carolina after a few years in Kentucky.

Then one night I met Jay. It was a strange meeting by anyone’s assessment. I was a nurse on a locked psychiatric ward. He was the neighbor of my best friend. She prevailed upon him to bring us a pizza at work and he did.

After work, we talked. My friend left to meet another friend. Jay and I talked into the wee hours of the morning.

I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember he asked me if I was happy.

The words seemed to hang there in the dark. It was not philosophical. It was not some veiled offering that he could make me happy. It was not even his poking around my being to see if I possessed the secret to happiness.

It was a simple question that seemed a pause in life … a stop at a crossroad. Was I happy? My circumstances at the time would have screamed, “No I am not happy.”

But as to the question of what would bring me happiness, I did not know. And I don’t remember how I answered his question that night.

But I knew when we went our separate ways that morning, something had changed in me. It was subtle. It was that ripple in time.

And though I did not know it then, the cold breeze I felt was the lack of what I never knew I lacked. It was a feeling akin to longing, but I did not know what it would take to fill that empty spot.

That afternoon, I was on my way to work. I was stopped at a stoplight. An ambulance passed in front of me. Jay, who was an EMT, was in the passenger seat. He did not see me. But my heart jumped at the recognition, and I realized I was feeling joy.

That empty spot was temporarily filled. As quickly as the Joy came, so did fear. Jay was not a part of my plan. I doubted I was a part of his plan. In fact, I did not know if I would ever see him again. I only knew that in that moment of seeing him, even from a distance, I was happy.

And, as it turned out, we were a part of God’s Masterful Plan. Over the next two years of a long distance relationship (Jay moved to another city), we both found we were happy (mostly) when we were together and not so happy when we were apart.

We got married. And 42 years later, I can honestly answer his original question of whether I am happy with a resounding “Yes.” (Most of the time)

Five weeks ago, Jay had open heart surgery. Ironically, the hospital is located at that very crossroad where I saw Jay that day after I met him.

It was another time the curtain of the universe parted a little. As he was being wheeled away from me, I realized once again that feeling of longing. But now I knew the source of the feeling. Jay had a part of my heart as I had his.

As I let go of his hand, I said, “I love you. Take care of our heart.” And so I held my part of our heart in prayer while he slept. And he held his part in his dreams.

And God held both parts close together, as the surgeon worked.

We are so thankful Jay is recovering. Today he began his cardiac rehab program. Cardiac Rehab is located on the top floor of an office building that overlooks that same crossroad where I saw Jay that day.

As he exercised and I looked out the window, I reflected a bit on life. I thought of all the unexpected highs and lows … all the times I thought I was so lost I would never be found … and how God “found” me every time.

And I remembered the young man from long ago and the slightly older man now, who turned out to be God’s Answer to my happiness.

I am blessed and thankful.

God Will Take Care Of You!

When I was growing up in South Carolina, there were frequent storms that would knock out the electricity.

My mother would light candles or get out the old kerosene lamps to provide some light. Then she would hold me on her lap and sing the hymn, “God Will Take Care Of You.”

In spite of the thunder, lightening and the dark, I felt warm and secure. My mother’s voice was strong, clear and confident. It was obvious she had been in storms before and she knew what to do.

Now as I face adult storms, I have returned to my mother’s method of dealing with them.

When I go to bed at night, I sing hymns. Sometime ago, God prompted me to sing the words of the hymn as He would sing them to me.

Example, in The Hymn, “God Will take Care of You “—

It is written,

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath His wings of love abide,

God will take care of you.

God will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you.

God sings it to me as,

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

I will take care of you;

Beneath My wings of love abide,

I will take care of you.

I will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way;

I will take care of you,

I will take care of you.

There is no better way to go to sleep than to have The Lord of The Universe sing you a lullaby.

Last night, I had been struggling with a respiratory problem. As I coughed and fretted, I was not sure I could sing. But I did so in faith, hoping the praises of my mouth would soothe all parts of me.

Much to my amazement, the song came out clear and strong. After I had sang a couple of verses, I was ready to go to sleep.

However, The Lord said, “I not only take care of you. I take care of others. Let’s sing to them.”

And so we did. We visited different people in spirit. As far as I know, I never physically left my bed, but Spiritually God and I made the rounds.

Our first stop was to see my friend, Mary. Mary has also been battling an illness that causes coughing. We sang to her, assuring her God would take care of her. I imagined us gently tucking her in and bringing peace to her body, mind and spirit.

We visited others, the sick, the grieving, the lonely, the lost. With each visit, I relaxed more and more, knowing that God had given me a tremendous blessing. He lifted me out of my self pity and allowed me to travel with Him and hear His Words of Assurance over and over again.

I drifted into sleep with His Words not only in my mouth and ears, but in my spirit.

I feel sure God would welcome you into His traveling choir. Not only will He boost your spirit, but you may come sing to me in spirit. I’d really like that!

Life’s Final Exam

What if at the end of our physical life on earth, there was only a one question final exam?

What if God reviewed our life and asked “How well did you love My Creations?”

This is what Jesus said in answer to a questioning student.

“Teacher,” he asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and the most important commandment.

The second most important commandment is like it: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Matthew 22:36-39

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:34-35