Cleanin’ Up Christmas

Cleanin’ Up Christmas

Recently, I began reading the book Christmas is not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, as a part of an Advent small group series hosted by Impact Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The five-chapter book explores the idea of shifting the focus of Christmas from a me-me-me experience to one that gives-gives-gives to those who are in need. I could run the list of great points Pastor Slaughter presents about the commercialization of Christmas, but this blog is about something much more important.

The “cleaning up of Christmas,” or as Mike Slaughter puts it, “sanitizing” Christmas takes a look at our insatiable need to recreate the Christmas story into something it was not. This idea of sanitizing Christmas runs the gamut of images, new and old: there’s this peaceful, purified nativity scene, equipped with a modestly dressed Mary, an ever-loving Joseph, and a manger, though full of animals, cleaned, sterilized, and fit for a king. What the book suggests, however, is that there was nothing clean or neat about the birth of Christ.

Just think: Mary and Joseph had traveled for days to get to Bethlehem from Nazareth — no bathing, probably limited rest, and by the time they reached Bethlehem, Mary may have been in full-blown labor! (Have you ever seen a woman in labor? There’s nothing cute about that!)

We all know the story: there was no room in the inn for them to stay so they end up in a stable where animals lived. Animals, y’all. The hay that would eventually cushion Jesus’ manger (the trough from which livestock ate their food!) was the bed for sheep and goats, horses and donkeys. It was probably also their makeshift bathroom, too.

There was nothing clean or pretty about Jesus’ birth.

But we’ve spent centuries cleaning up this story to make it appear better than it really was. We’ve neatly tucked away the realities of the Christmas story, dressed it up, made it look and smell better because I mean honestly, who wants to worship a King born in the feces of barn animals? Who wants to admit that their savior found residence in the lowest of low places — a manger — surrounded by tired, weary parents who had spent days traveling to Bethlehem with nowhere to rest once they arrived?

So we clean it up! We dress Mary in her blue and white headdress, skin a-glow, hair perfectly coiffed. Joseph, in his humble attire, looks longingly at the baby resting in the feeding trough. We strategically place each lowly lamb and honorable horse at the feet of a pristine, babbling Messiah, pushing away the idea that someone who came to save the world in so much power and grandeur could be born in such a despicable and dishonorable way. And let us not forget the white-washing of the Christmas story; remember a few years ago when former FOX News commentator Megyn Kelly declared that Jesus was a white man, drudging up the age-old process of blotting out the color (read: melanin infused color) of the Jesus story. Not only have we had difficulty accepting Jesus as one who was born in the recesses of society, but we’ve also had a problem accepting Jesus, His parents, and the entire community from which he was born and lived as a people of color.

Mike Slaughter suggests that we read the Christmas story through a sanitized lens because we know what is going to happen in the end; This baby will grow up to become the Messiah, our Redeemer who spends the last three years of His life as a rabble-rouser. Because we often view Jesus from the other end of calvary, it becomes easy to retell His story in a way that is more aesthetically pleasing for us. It’s easy to make the ugliness of our stories appear beautiful when we are confident that the end will be favorable; but what happens to the story when you are not as sure?

From Mary and Joseph’s perspective, they were not sure how this birthing-the-Messiah thing would work out. The angel Gabriel brings this bazar message, and though both Mary and Joseph have some hesitation over it (depending on which of the Gospels you’re reading), they accept the Word of the Lord which results in them facing ridicule and shame for nine months. What a challenge of their faith! Remember: Mary and Joseph had not yet the privilege of knowing Jesus as risen savior as we do; their understanding of the birth of Jesus is not through the lens of Calvary. They were living in the moment! This experience, as I’ve suggested, was ugly, smelly, and quite oxymoronic considering the child being born would reign as king one day.



But, don’t we do this in our lives as well? Don’t we take the ugliest parts of ourselves and sanitize it, make it cleaner and more presentable to the public so that our story is better received? We shove down the shame, hide the hideous, remove the regretful to allow a more socially acceptable story to shine through — in hopes that those around us will accept us the way we’ve presented it. We dress up the lies, twist how the story really went so that those around us will feel better about their own stories of fear, shame, and doubt. We reframe the circumstances behind an unexpected pregnancy to appease these social pressures of single parenthood. We reshape the story to explain how a divorce shattered a seemingly picture-perfect family. We reconstruct the tale we tell about a sudden foreclosure on a sprawling mansion after keeping up with the Jones’ became just too much.

We are meticulous in repainting the picture to make it look presentable to the world. How useful could someone who has been rejected, broken, and born into a manger really be?

I think the Christmas story answers this lingering question — how useful can someone with a not-so-spectacular story be used to do great things? When we consider the realness of how Jesus was born, it allows for us to take a step back and consider the power of His birth. Jesus’ birth story was not one of pristine privilege or dressed up dramatics. It was of some young and in love folks agreeing to say “yes” to something beyond their understanding. It was a total commitment to follow through on their beliefs despite facing ridicule and having to birth their promise on top of hay full of animal crap. And despite all of those not-so-pleasurable things, Jesus’ story lives on in the annals of history. And ours will too.

What stories have you sanitized to make others (or even yourself) feel better about? This Christmas, consider removing the rose-tinted glasses from your story — share it! I’m challenging myself to be and remain transparent, to tell my story as-is, no cleaning it up. The Christmas story is much more than gift-giving and receiving — it is an opportunity for us to dig deeper into the realities of our story and use them to share the miracles in our own lives!

‘Overcomer’ Star Priscilla Shirer to Headline Selah Conference

‘Overcomer’ Star Priscilla Shirer to Headline Selah Conference

Video Courtesy of blackamericaweb


Internationally acclaimed actress and bestselling author, Priscilla Shirer and health guru and serial entrepreneur Pinky Cole, owner of the acclaimed plant-based restaurant and food truck, Slutty Vegan, will headline the 2019 Selah Leadership Encounter for Women, which will be held November 21-23, 2019 at the fabulous new Omni Frisco Hotel in Texas. Selah, an ancient word meaning to pause or stop here before moving forward, will give leader women a rare opportunity to learn, grow and shape their destinies. Created by Vashti Murphy McKenzie, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the first woman elected to this position in the denomination’s 232-year history, Selah is the place for women to dream big, go home, and execute.

Named one of the top eleven conferences for women who want to level up in 2019 by Essence magazine, Selah Leadership Encounter for women is a place for leaders to reset, refresh, and recalibrate.

“Selah is not just a conference; it’s a community of leaders. It is a safe space for women to help each other rise, soar and shape their professional and personal trajectories. It’s a level up with thought leaders, trendsetters and cultural change-makers, who share their expertise, triumphs, and setbacks in an effort to inspire and teach,” said Bishop McKenzie.

Developed for women looking for a holistic approach to next-level empowerment and training, this year’s line-up features speakers from the corporate, community and the congregation including movie director Deborah Riley Draper; leading business expert Becky A. Davis; national speaker, trainer and author, Dr. Micaela Herndon; church founder and senior pastor Dr. Cynthia Hale; and author and movie producer, Cheryl Polote-Williamson.

Along with workshops, the 2019 Selah Dallas Leadership Encounter for Women will also feature a rooftop welcome reception, Boss Brunch, private movie screening, vendors and more. Selah Leadership Encounter for Women attracts more than 400 women from around the country annually in Dallas and Atlanta including executive, c-suite and leader-women from diverse fields. Designed for leaders from diverse careers, Selah attendees are leaders in their companies, their civic and community organizations, their families and their churches.

Selah Leadership Encounter for Women is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that brings in national experts to help women identify realistic solutions to handle the stress and strain of their busy lives. Selah teaches women how to develop action goals that address leadership styles, decision making and problem-solving. For more information or register visit vashtimckenzie.com.

 

 

The Gospel and Embodied Solidarity

The Gospel and Embodied Solidarity

Courtesy of TEDx Talks


 “Same God,” a documentary coming to PBS later this year, is about Larycia Hawkins, the first African American woman to be a tenured professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, who set out to highlight the commonalities among the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — and discovered what keeps them apart.

Produced and directed by Linda Midgett, a Wheaton alumna, the film follows Hawkins’ experiences after she decided during Advent in 2015 to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslim women. Her intent was to explore what it means to embody solidarity with another faith — an inquiry that led her to post on Facebook post that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

At Wheaton, Billy Graham’s alma mater and the United States’ preeminent evangelical school, Hawkins’ gesture of “embodied solidarity,” as she called her wearing of hijab, was merely controversial, but the Facebook post was unforgivable. Despite student protests on her behalf, Hawkins eventually lost her professorship.

Larycia Hawkins wears a hijab in a Facebook post. Photo courtesy of “Same God” film

Hawkins’ story points to a fact that many of us have known for a long time: When evangelical Christians talk about religious liberty, they mean it for everyone but Muslims. But it also raises questions about what it means to be an ally and what exactly embodied solidarity means.

Within American Muslim communities, the idea of solidarity and allyship is vastly complicated and informed by religious practice, intentions, active listening and learning and the willingness to admit and accept one’s own ingrained attitudes about other communities.

Hawkins, now part of the general faculty at University of Virginia’s departments of politics and religious studies, talks in Midgett’s film about how it felt in December 2015 to hear Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, call for “banning all Muslims” from entering the United States.

In discussions she was having with her students at Wheaton, where she taught political science, Hawkins felt compelled by her faith to show solidarity with her Muslim brothers and sisters. After consulting with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, she posted a picture of herself in hijab with an accompanying statement on Facebook. “Women standing with women. That’s what I wanted to see,” she explained in “Same God.”

But Hawkins saw the move as a Christian act as well as a feminist one. “Solidarity in its heart is what the cross is all about,” Hawkins said. “Because the cross was God’s solidarity with humanity.”

At a panel discussion after a showing in Washington, D.C. (the film has also been featured at film festivals in Virginia, Los Angeles and New Orleans), Hawkins amplified on this sacred principle. But sitting in the audience, I hardly needed to listen — I could see in her eyes and body language how fervently she believes in the act of embodied solidarity.

Linda Midgett, left, and Larycia Hawkins on the red carpet at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sept. 24, 2018. Photo courtesy of “Same God” film

“What I learned about the hijab was a very humbling experience,” she said. “It wasn’t a social experiment. … The hijab as a concept in Islam is about honoring God with our bodies. The hijab is one way of honoring God.”

In my two decades of covering Muslim communities in America and hearing stories about the hijab — why we wear it or take it off, those who are forced to wear it, those who choose not to, the targeting of hijabi women, what Islamic scripture says about it — I’ve had occasion to ask myself, in my capacity as a private Muslim woman who wears the hijab, why is this such a big thing to everyone? Can’t we move on? 

The fascination with the hijab is, of course, a stand-in for our fascination with a host of other social issues: the intersection of modesty and fashion, oppression and empowerment, politicization of religion, tokenism.

But it also remains one of the most visible representations of Islam and as such lends itself to being a display of sympathy and unity with those who suffer for wearing it, or who have to fight to retain the right to wear it. It also remains a flashpoint for those who call the hijab oppressive or religiously unnecessary, pointing to the societies where modest dressing is forced.

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting of 50 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last fall, women worldwide, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, donned the hijab in solidarity. Some of her fellow New Zealanders, supported by a #HeadscarfForHarmony campaign, followed suit, declaring their oneness with Muslims in their communities.

In this image made from video, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, hugs and consoles a woman as she visited Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers among tributes to Christchurch attack victims, in Wellington, on March 17, 2019. (TVNZ via AP)

It doesn’t always, however, read that way to Muslim women. One called #HeadscarfForHarmony “cheap tokenism … a gimmick and pretty distasteful” in a column. “Most people will remove their scarves when Friday ends whilst my mother and sisters continue to be abused — as it’s their religious outfit and not a costume.”

Sahar Pirzada, outreach director for Heart Women & Girls, a Muslim organization that promotes awareness of sexual assault and sexual health, said solidarity was more than “wearing a hijab, thinking that does anything to challenge the systemic issues that have led to white supremacist violent attacks on my community. We need more than performative solidarity.”

I’ve largely greeted wearing the hijab in solidarity as a positive gesture, less for the benefit of Muslim women than as a step for the newbie wearer toward understanding how visible you become when you wear the hijab. I’d never respond with a blanket “No” if someone asked whether to wear it in solidarity.

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

I will point out that there are many other ways to support Muslim women. Cultivate authentic friendships with Muslims and listen to them. Reject anti-Muslim rhetoric. Read about and spend time researching the roots of white supremacy and anti-Muslim hate. Ask genuine questions.

As my friend Hind Makki wrote recently on Facebook after the Christchurch mass shootings, “We welcome solidarity (who doesn’t?) and intention IS important. But also important is centering the voices and actual experiences of the affected community, not the interpretation by outsiders of those experiences.”

What Midgett’s film shows is that Hawkins has done what Makki suggests, but in a different way. She has centered within herself the actual experience of Muslim women while also bringing the narrative back to Muslim communities living this often tense experience. It is in this that Hawkins truly learned what it meant to don the hijab. She lost her job for it. She walked up to the line that separates evangelical Christians and Muslims, crossed it and took the consequences.

Promotional poster for “Same God” documentary. Image courtesy of “Same God” film

To talk with her four years later is to contemplate what it means to embody solidarity. It goes far beyond performative acts. It means to lay one’s livelihood and belief system on the line to stand with a fellow community of believers. It means to have her Christian beliefs questioned because she dared to say “our Gods are the same.”

Don’t try this popular act of solidarity at home, in other words, without first realizing that the hijab is fraught with complexities for Muslim communities. Hijab worn by non-Muslims must be worn with a deep intention to try to understand, if even briefly, how it feels to be visibly Muslim. It must be done while making sure Muslims are leading that conversation — those who wear hijab, because many of us also don’t. Without this, then it’s just putting a piece of cloth on your head.

(Dilshad D. Ali is a journalist and blog editor for the website Haute Hijab. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Ashamed of the Gospel?


Well, this is awkward. I honestly didn’t see it coming. I am not the kind of guy who will chat you up on a bus. I am also not the kind of guy who likes being chatted up in the bus either. I cherish my privacy. Commuting time usually doubles as my reading time, and this afternoon was no different. So, here I was, seated at the back of the bus. I removed my phone from my pocket to check my e-mail before I got to my reading.

“Is that an Ideos phone?” I assumed he was talking to someone else, but the guy seated next to me was obviously pointing at my phone.

I nodded reluctantly, making it clear that I didn’t want to find out where this odd question was leading. He seemed not to notice, or care. A barrage of questions about phones, internet speeds, and Facebook followed. Soon, we were in deep conversation. I had to give him this, the guy was an excellent conversationalist. I grew even more interested when our chat took a turn for the world of literature. We parked there for awhile, talking about books and the declining reading culture in Kenya and the world over. Then a Tupac song began playing on the bus radio and this sparked a new topic of music and how modern day hip hop has nothing on Old School rap. We found common ground on many things. I was beginning to relax. This went on intermittently for about an hour.


Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr


I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over sharing it. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.

I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.

The e-mail I happened to be checking turned out to be today’s For the Love of God commentary by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.

I was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. (Carrying Out Discipleship Everywhere). Talk about a shouting hint.

We stayed in that traffic for slightly over 2 hours.

So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:

1. WHY SHOULD I BE A KILLJOY?
The guy was lively and interesting. There was no point making the conversation awkward. Furthermore, I always find it easier to share the Gospel with people who seem a bit distressed and sad. Somehow, I managed to deceive myself that he didn’t need the Gospel. He seemed happy.

2. I ALREADY COMPROMISED TOO MUCH.
When we began talking about the Old School rap, I was tempted to show the guy that I also knew my music, and I took off showing how much of Tupac, Lost Boyz, Naughty by Nature and Dr. Dre’s lyrics I still remembered. I conveniently forgot to mention that I knew all that from my past life, before I met Christ. It seemed too late to bring up the Gospel.

3. TOO MANY EARS AROUND.
It’s one thing to talk about Christ one-on-one with a stranger when it’s just the two of you, but it’s quite another thing when the woman seated on the other side of you is obviously eavesdropping.

4. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW HOW.
Yes, this is Cornell. I can articulate the Gospel with the precision of a poet and the clarity of a philosopher on paper or on a pulpit. But something just happens when I have to do it in the mess and muddle of everyday business. There’s no time to plan, no timing seems perfect. However, a big part of the reason why this is the case is that I have paid little attention to the numerous guides and guidelines written on street evangelism. I have nothing but my ignorance to blame for this.

So, there you go. After all is said and done, after all the excuses and rationalizations, only one reality remains. I was ashamed of the Gospel. No, I wasn’t afraid of the people who would hear me talking about Jesus on a bus. What can they do to me? The fear I felt has a more appropriate term, shame. I felt shame. Me? Cornell? Talking about Jesus to a stranger on a bus? This may not have been the exact attitude I had at the time, but it may as well be.

So, I got to the church, but the guilt continued to tug at my heart. I ended up being a bit distracted throughout the prayer and study sessions. I knew what I needed to do. I bowed down and repented to God. I had failed. I repented of being ashamed of the Gospel. I know that tomorrow I may face a situation just like today’s. I am not sure if I will handle it any differently. But I am praying and will continue praying for courage, boldness and the discernment to share the Gospel with random strangers at every “opportune” moment. It is my prayer that you, the person reading this, will pray the same prayer too.

I decided to share this because I realize that this shame is not unique to me. It doesn’t matter how many 1.1.6 T-shirts you have in your closet.

After the prayers and Bible Study, I left church for home. When I entered the cab, I found the driver listening to some preacher on the radio. As I put on my seat belt, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly he reached forward and changed the channel to some country music station. I looked down in sad apprehension.

Father, forgive us for the many times we have been ashamed of your Gospel.

Strengthen our faith, may we live like we believe; grant us the boldness to freely share the message that we have so freely received.

COMMENTARY: I had a teacher who looked like me

COMMENTARY: I had a teacher who looked like me

Video Courtesy of Education Post


I grew up in the pre-Katrina New Orleans in the 1980s and 90s. The city was impoverished and crime-ridden, but it was home. The diverse cultures that permeated New Orleans, its friendliness and music, were potent enough to make it one of the most amazing places in the world to live. The big downside for a kid like me was the educational system, which had been ranked one of the lowest in the country for decades. The fact that I was able to navigate a failing school system and become a first-generation college graduate was nothing short of miraculous.

Or so it seemed to me until, as an educator, I conducted research on the significance of teachers of color for black students. I now recognize that my success is heavily attributed to the teachers of color who walked the halls of my primary and secondary schools. Yes, I had wonderful white teachers who loved me and supported me, but having teachers who looked like me enhanced my educational experience exponentially.

Shirley Dufour was my second-grade teacher and my first African-American teacher. She was a charismatic, nurturing and extremely knowledgeable educator who commanded the room. She taught us with firm love. She always dressed professionally and spoke so articulately, personifying excellence with every step she made and word she spoke.

I idolized Mrs. Dufour. She looked like me and was able to connect with me in a way my white teachers could not. She set the highest expectations for me and refused to let me settle academically or personally. Her unwavering commitment to the pursuit of excellence is what I wanted to mirror when I became a teacher.

Now, it is my professional purpose to exemplify for my students what Mrs. Dufour modeled for me. When I became a teacher in Dallas ISD in 2006, I knew that I wanted to work at an impoverished school so that I could be for those students what my teachers of color were for me. I always tell my students, “your address doesn’t dictate your success.” They believe that motto so much more when the person saying it looks like them.

In my classroom, my students gain an experience. They are empowered and feel accomplished every day regardless of their academic abilities, because I believe that this dissipates the achievement gap between black students and their peers. Whenever I can, I aim to validate the cultural needs of my students. I affirm the challenges of their environment as I steer them towards opportunities that can eradicate the blatant systemic oppression in their neighborhoods. My experiences as a student of color allow me to provide a unique perspective that only someone like me can give them, and it challenges them to think outside of the box to find solutions and enact change.

Research emphasizes that teachers of color matter for all students, and especially for students of color. It is imperative that we begin to change the narrative of America’s schools; this starts with recruiting, developing and supporting teachers of color so they remain in the classroom. In a just-released report, Teach Plus and The Education Trust lay out the reasons why teachers of color leave the profession. I can relate to many of these, and I know that we must be intentional about creating opportunities for teachers of color to operate with autonomy, authenticity and authority, so that we can address some of the issues that stifle the educational success of students of color across the country.

It is imperative that my students feel like they matter, and that they are accurately represented in their classrooms. I want them to see someone who looks like them, shares similar experiences and provides authentic anecdotes to overcome the challenges they experience. That magnitude of leverage begins with the intentional development and implementation of a pipeline of effective teachers of color.

This article was originally published on TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune.


Here are 4 Amazingly Simple Steps To Making Godly Decisions

Here are 4 Amazingly Simple Steps To Making Godly Decisions

Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr


At some point in life we’ve all made big decisions. Whether it’s the college we attend, the person we marry, the first home or car we purchase, or the city we move to, decisions are a part of our lives. And to some degree, we always feel like we have to make the right decision. But how do we know what the right decision is? What do we do to prepare ourselves for major decisions?

A study conducted some years ago showed that the more choices we’re presented with, the more debilitat¬ing choices can become. Participants were presented with an assortment of 30 items to choose from and an assortment of 6 items to choose from. More people stopped and recognized the display with 30 choices, but a lesser percentage of those people actually made the choice to buy. We can get to a point in our lives where we think through decisions so much that we talk ourselves out of doing the very thing we set out to do in the first place—making a decision. Why? Because we don’t want to “miss God.” But is that how things work? Are we supposed to agonize over the choices we need to make?

One passage of Scripture may be helpful here: “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3, ESV). Commit literally means to roll over into or put your full weight on some¬thing. It’s giving everything. Interesting that Scripture doesn’t say commit your plans to the Lord. But that’s what we do, right? We commit our plans to the Lord, rather than our work. The distinction is huge. There are four things this verse teaches us:

1. There will be times when things do not go as planned.
It’s inevitable. It’s like walking through the store with your wife and a shopping list. As much as you might want to, “Stick to the plan,” she deviates. And you may get upset when she deviates. You want her to follow the list—to the letter. But your wife has the special ability of remembering stuff that you forget. We get mad when God gets away from our list too. We make plans to be married by a certain age. We make plans to retire by a certain age. When something pops up that isn’t on the list, we are furious. God remembers the stuff we forget too.
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Maybe we should change our approach. Stop just committing your plans to the Lord and start committing your work to the Lord. Then Scrip¬ture will make more sense when it says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, ESV) or “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33, ESV). It is only by committing your work to Him that He establishes your plan. So stop working on that ten-year plan and start working on committing yourself fully to Him in your work.

2. There will be times when you won’t have peace about the decision you make.
Most times we feel like if we have peace about something, then it must be the right decision to make. I remember one decision I made where I didn’t have peace: the decision to move across the country to attend semi¬nary. I didn’t want to move 3,000 miles from home, but decided to do so anyway. Peace was the last thought on my mind. But, in hindsight, it was one of the best deci¬sions I ever made. If Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a moment of agonizing conflict over the decision to bear the world’s sin, then surely there will be decisions in your life where you don’t experience peace in the short term.

3. Never think God is not at work, no matter how absent He may seem to be.
Author Tim Keller said, “God’s guidance is more something God does than something God gives.” In other words, God guides you through events and occurrences in your life, ultimately based on the choices you make. So where you find yourself right now is right in the middle of God’s guidance. Stop looking for it. God is doing it in your life right now. We spend so much time seeking God’s guidance, but don’t realize that we’re right slap dab in the middle of it.

4. God expects us to develop wisdom to discern His guidance.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her” (from Proverbs 4:7–8, ESV).
Developing wisdom accompanies our spiritual maturity. Another illustration by Tim Keller is key here: How would your parents react if you, an adult, called them to ask permission to go outside? They’d prob¬ably think you were crazy. Why? Because you are mature. As we mature in our faith, God (our Father) wants to trust us more and more to have the wisdom to make good decisions.
So after we pray, get counsel, and ask for His will, we’re ultimately left with the decision to make. In de¬veloping wisdom, we can decide with confidence that He is at work in what we decide. Decisions can be tough. Decisions can be agonizing. Decisions can be filled with uncertainty. If you have a tough decision to make, commit your work to the Lord. You’ll find out over time that in doing so, God will establish your plans.