Tag Archives: Intention

New Places, New Faces: Wisdom Required

meredithWhen David’s envoys came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites to express sympathy to him, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” 1 Chronicles 19:3 (NIV)

I’ll never forget seventh grade. That was the first year of what used to be called Junior High School and is now generally referred to as Middle School. All of the local elementary schools fed into Meredith Junior High. For seven years I had attended school with pretty much the same group of kids. We knew each other. We’d grown up together. Now, we were all dispersed among four or five times the number of kids from all over town.

I can remember the anxiety that came with those early days of seventh grade. You feel awkward enough as it is when you’re twelve or thirteen years old, but then to be placed in a new school with a host of new kids you didn’t know could feel disconcerting. I met all sorts of new friends. Some were positive influences on me, others not so much.

I thought about those days as I read inexperienced Prince Hanun taking the throne and filling his fathers shoes. I have no idea how old Hanun was, but I pictured him as a young man suddenly thrust into leadership and his commanders all jockeying for favor with the new monarch. They whispered in his year during a time of anxiety and fear. Hanun proved ignorant, or foolish, or both. He listened to the wrong advice and it cost him his crown.

Being in a new place can be a scary time. Whether it’s living in a new community, attending a new school, or working at a new job, there is a certain period of time it takes to get oriented and learn the ropes. You also tend to meet a lot of new people who have a whole lot of advice for you emanating from their own self-serving agendas. This morning I am reminded that wisdom and discernment are greatly needed during these stretches of life’s journey. New “friends” you meet in these situation often prove the great wisdom I learned from Looney Tunes as a kid: “With a friend like that, who needs enemies?”

To-morrow, and To-morrow, and To-morrow

Patrick Stewart as Macbeth.
Patrick Stewart as Macbeth.

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (NIV)

  • When I was five I intended to grow up and be an astronaut.
  • When I was seven I intended to grow up and become President of the United States.
  • When I was ten I intended to go into the navy and become a naval aviator.
  • When I was thirteen I intended to become a lawyer and politician.
  • When I was sixteen I intended to become a great evangelist like Billy Graham.

It was never  my intention to live in Pella, Iowa. It was never my intention to spend twenty years in the customer research and quality assessment business or to be a business owner. It was never my intention to be divorced and remarried.

As I look back on my life’s journey I find that there are many things I intended to do that were clearly not part of God’s plan for me. David wanted desperately to build a temple for God, but that was not God’s intention. God intended for David to become the warrior leader who would establish the throne and prepare the way for his son to build the temple. There are many things in my life I never envisioned which I now believe God both knew and ordained for me.

Just last week Wendy and I were discussing a man we have observed who is aggressively striving after his own intentions, who appears to have failed miserably on many counts, and also appears to be in denial regarding it all. Wendy remarked that the man reminded her of Macbeth who destroyed his life intending to fulfill what he believed was his prophesied path. But, that’s one of the things I love about following God: He eventually redeems even our foolish wanderings and failures for His purposes.

Today, I am reminded to be discerning between my intentions and God’s designs. I desire to lean into the plan God has for me and follow the path laid before me. I have no time to waste blazing trails that lead, at best, to nowhere or, at worst, to tragic ends. I don’t want to end up thinking along the same lines as Macbeth who concluded at the end of his tragic strivings:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

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Chapter-a-Day John 5

The healing of a paralytic by Jesus, after Mar...
The healing of a paralytic by Jesus, after Marten de Vos, ca. 1585, from the Bowyer Bible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” John 5:6 (NLT)

It seems like such a silly question to ask a paralytic sitting by a pool that, as the legend goes, had miraculous healing powers.

“Do you want to get well?”

I’ve found this to be one of the most haunting questions in all of scripture, because it cuts right to the heart of my motives, my desires, and my true willingness to act on them. What I say I want and what my life and actions reveal that I want are daily revealed to be two different things.

“Do you want to get well?”

I do, but maybe I’d rather be sick than have get a job. I like the attention and sympathy I get from others, and the disability check is nice.

“Do you want to get sober?”

I do, but tomorrow after I finish off this last bottle.

“Do you want to work?”

Yes! Are you kidding?! I’ve been searching for months, but I can’t find the job I want (the one that pays me a lot of money, gives great benefits, and doesn’t demand too much of me).

Do you want to know God?”

I do! But, I kind of want a God that fits my lifestyle. I don’t want to be uncomfortable or have to deal with guilt or anything like that. I want to know God, just as long as it’s all positive. You know, answering my prayers and blessing me and loving me and all that stuff without expecting too much of me.


I find it interesting that today’s chapter starts with a physically crippled man and ends with spiritually crippled men. Jesus asks the paralytic about his motives and heart desire about getting physically well, then His act of healing reveals the motives and heart desire of those who say they wanted to get spiritually well – but refused the One God had sent who was standing in their midst.

Today, I’m thinking about all of the things I say I desire … but don’t act accordingly. God, forgive me. It’s a good day to make a change.

Chapter-a-Day James 4

Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:2-3 (NLT)

The study of acting is really the study of humanity. To portray a character realistically, you have to understand who this person is, how they think, how they talk, and how they move. You have to understand what makes this character, this person tick. Great actors peel away the layers of a character and get to the heart of who he or she really is. The deeper you understand the character, the more fully you can embody him or her on stage.

As I step into a role, one of the first things that I do is a process called “beating the script.” I break my scenes into “beats” or sections determined by what the character is thinking. The underlying premise is that the character wants or desires something at all times. His or Her words are driven by an internal desire. If you identify the characters ultimate “want” then you can begin to connect the dots of “wants” in each moment of the scene from beginning to end. Then, when you play the scene, you don’t play the words, you play the wants.

What’s interesting about this process is that the truth of it is identified right in God’s Message. It’s in today’s chapter. We are all driven by our wants. We each have deep, core desires that determine the things we do and say each day. We want to be secure. We want to be loved. We want to be rich. We want to be famous. We want [fill in the blank]. As we live in relationship each day, those motivations lead us to thoughts, ideas, words, interactions and behaviors.

So, what is it I really want? That is a question with which we each need to grapple, and find the answer for ourselves. When we do, a lot of other things come into focus.

Chapter-a-day Amos 5

Son of Man (Magritte)
Image by Williamo! via Flickr

People hate this kind of talk. Raw truth is never popular. Amos 5:10 (MSG)

The truth is, Jesus was very popular when He was miraculously feeding thousands with a few fish sandwiches.

Let’s make Jesus king! Why not? He’s a one man welfare program! Let’s follow along. Sure, we’ll have to stand in line, and the crowds are annoying, but we’ll never have to work another day in our lives. Jesus will heal us when we get sick and feed us when we get hungry. What a king Jesus will be!

But then, Jesus simply stopped doing miracles and went up the mountain side by himself. He left a whole line of people standing there waiting to be healed. And, he never came back! What’s up with that?! He disappeared and left the whole crowd of us hungry for breakfast!

There must be some mistake. Rumor has it he’s on the other side of the lake. When did he leave? Why wasn’t there an announcement? They really should start handing out agendas with Jesus’ itinerary. It’s just rude to leave a whole crowd of followers standing around. I tell you, I’m definitely up for making him king and all, but he has got to get his administration organized. He takes off without healing all these sick and lame people who waited all day yesterday. It’s just not fair. And, he leaves without telling us what we’re having for lunch. I hope it’s lamb chops. Anyway, he’s not going to be a very popular king if he doesn’t get act together. I’m hungry, let’s go find him.

Master, what’s the deal? Why did you leave us hungry on the other side of the lake?

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill…stop grumbling among yourselves…Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. [from John 6]

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Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 1

That night God appeared to Solomon. God said, “What do you want from me? Ask.” 2 Chronicles 1:7 (MSG)

What do you want?

It’s such a revealing question. As an actor, I was trained to break a character’s words down and ask this question for almost every line of a play. “What is it you want?” For the character of Lars Knudsen (pictured), the motivations were pretty simple. Lars wanted his love, Martha.

A character, a person, you, and me – we all speak, act and think out of that which motivates us. Watch a person long enough, listen to their conversation, and you can often find what motivates them. Their words and their actions reveal their motivation. You can see what they want.

What do I want?

It’s not such an easy question to answer. I’d like to say I want wisdom and I want God’s will. But, the reality is that my words and my actions convict me of less honorable motivations.

Today, I’m trying to answer the question honestly. What do I want?

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 3

Sears Christmas Wish Book.  "Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?" 1 Kings 3:9 (MSG)

As a child, there was nothing quite like the Sears Christmas "Wish Book" catalog that showed up in our house every autumn. Within days of its arrival, the extensive section of toys and games at the back of the catalog was dog-eared and worn from grubby little fingers flipping through the pages. My eyes poured over all the possibilities with an eye to figure out what to ask Santa to deliver.

As humans, we like to contemplate what we would ask for if suddenly given the opportunity to be granted whatever we wished. As children we play this game with Santa. We continue to contemplate the possibilities as we read stories about a genie in the bottle. As adults we contemplate our list of wishes as we buy a powerball ticket or enter the sweepstakes. And, we often approach God as though he is a similar sugar daddy type character.

The question is raised again as we read today's chapter and find Solomon weighing his option. When faced with the question Solomon looked at the enormity of the task before him and asked for wisdom to lead. I look into my own heart and ask if I can honestly say I have similar purity of intention. Too often I think that my heart has the same childish, self-centered motives it did when I sat in front of The Brady Bunch after school and poured over the Sears Wish Book for hours.

God, grant me purity of heart, that I might have the motivation to honestly ask you for the right things with the right intentions.