Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

Truly, whenever a door opens, it does seem that obstacles come flying across and even through the opening. Too often, when this happens to me, I find myself closing the door, fearful of potential attack and worse, for me, failure. A clear view of the way through does not necessarily mean it’s the right door.

I Corinthians 16:8-10
But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

There’s a Bible story about this situation [Numbers 13-21-30]: Moses sent a group of men to spy out the land of Canaan. When they got there, they found a beautiful land, “flowing with milk and honey.” But along with the verdant land, there were fortified cities and even giants. It all seemed too daunting to the scouts except for Caleb, who believed the opportunity was from God and therefore, worth the cost.

Opposition in the face of opportunity may also mean there is a sacrifice to attaining the goal. Our culture has adopted the “quick fix” way of doing things. If it doesn’t come easily, it’s not worth doing.

I have seen students leave college within one semester because it was so much more difficult they they expected. There was an initial goal but the demands were greater than their desire to overcome the challenges.

I remember when I was first getting into the theater business in Chicago back in the seventies. There weren’t as many professional and semi-professional theaters back then as there are now. As a result, most actors would venture into the modeling or acting in commercials or trade shows (in addition to waiting tables, of course). This process includes presenting oneself to an agency with a head shots and resumes and a hope that they might like you well enough to send you on an audition. The audition: that’s the opportunity.

But every audition would have hundreds of other starving, good-looking, perfect-for-the-part actors and actresses. If a “newbie” didn’t get a job from one or two of those auditions, the agency lost interest. They wanted instant success and verification that the “product” (actor) was a viable commodity.

How do you fight that kind of opposition? Intellectually, I always knew the answer: practice and perseverance. But emotionally, I couldn’t handle the disappointments, the losses, the failures. I didn’t look or sound like the “All-American” girl. Instead of leveraging who I was, I kept trying to be someone I wasn’t. I actually gave in to the opposition.

Opposition builds strength and like fire, separates the dross from the pure gold. It’s a good thing.

God help me accept opposition and to stand firm in its face, to learn what I must learn and then to forge ahead.

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The passage I read today from Romans is not a particular favorite. Talk of cutting off and God’s sternness and unbelief is always difficult. As I contemplated these unpleasant attributes of God, I considered the importance of timing.

Romans 11:23
And if they [Israelites] do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Each of us has windows of opportunity to experience or meet God. I can certainly look back and see some of those windows that opened and closed. They were crossroads I didn’t recognize at the time because I took the other way. As a child, I can remember going to Vacation Bible School and although I enjoyed the activities and “something to do” in the summer, I didn’t meet God there. And later in high school, one of my closest friends was a PK (preacher’s kid) and I adored her family but it never occurred to me to embrace their God. In college, I was in a sorority where many of the girls were active in Campus Crusade, but I didn’t even consider attending a meeting. There must have been more of these “close calls from Christ” in my young adult years, but I don’t remember them.

God reached out to me and for that season of time, I could have looked through and believed. Who would I have become? No telling.

I am grateful there were many windows.

If there were many windows for me, then there are many windows for others. Christians get so hung up thinking about someone who hasn’t “accepted Christ” and “oh, they will be lost forever.” But there is always another opportunity. There is always another moment in time. We just can’t see it now.

My mother was against all things religious for years and years. By the time she reached her nineties and was living with us, I assumed she would never experience God in any kind of real way. Then, as dementia set in, the likelihood seemed even more remote. But one night, while I was sitting by her bed, chatting quietly until she fell asleep, she said, “Oh, look, it’s Jesus,” and then, “Oh, he’s reaching out to me with an invitation (this was all in Latvian, so the word was specific to a card or written invitation),” and then, after some moments she said, “I think I’ll take it. Yes, I’m going to take it.” And then after some silence, she opened her eyes and told me how beautiful it all was. I was mesmerized. I thought she might die in that moment and just go on to be with the Christ. It was an amazing experience to watch her face, her countenance and to hear the quality of her voice. It was a different woman, totally coherent, and totally enraptured. She died a few weeks later.

My mother had missed ninety years of open windows, but there was still another window ready to open again.

God can be stern and even close windows for a season, but in the end, there is still that grace and mercy and kindness. God will reach in. Today or tomorrow. It doesn’t matter to God who exists outside of human time. Holy, holy, holy.

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Even when we’re doing all the right things, we might get a viper bite. Intellectually, I know that life brings all kinds of challenges and we can’t expect the way to be smooth all the time and the key is how we respond to them. Why doesn’t that knowledge make it easier?

Acts 28:3, 5
Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand….But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

I feel as though I’m in a good place “spiritually.” In fact, it’s probably the best place I’ve been in a long time. I’m more disciplined in my devotions, I’m reading, I’m praying, I’m confessing my sins, I’m giving and receiving forgiveness. In general, my life circumstances are pretty stable. I’m working, my husband is working and we are both in good health. Our children are almost all graduated from high school (only a year and a half to go).

And yet, we keep getting nipped by things that are disconcerting: 4 car break downs or fender benders in the last month (totally over $3000) and then two trees were felled by the wind ($500 minimum – our deductible). We just discovered our one son will add $2000 to our car insurance annual bill and the other two kids have to repeat their driver’s schools ($700). The crown our daughter had to get after a root canal was not covered by insurance ($1200). And we just maxed out one of our main credit card with a second one on the way. Clearly, the viper in our life is the dollar. Financially, we are living on the edge.

Lord, I confess, we are really terrible at this part. Help! Teach me… teach us how to shake this viper off into the fire.

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Acts 13:50b, 52
…They [the opposition] stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region…And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we mistake opposition for failure. After all, in this case, the opposition managed to expel both Paul and Barnabas from their city. And later, they even followed the two apostles to Lystra and stirred up that crowd so much that they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But none of these things deterred the apostles. They either “shook the dust from their feet” or waited on God to heal them and moved on.

How often do we cave to opposition in our own worlds? If I look back, I realize how many times I have given up my ideas or projects under opposition. I kept looking for a blessing, a success, as the signal that God wanted me to continue. If I wasn’t successful then I became too discouraged to continue. And so, there are plays unfinished, performances never executed, work undone, blogs left idle, ideas left hanging, people lost, children untouched, jobs never started.

Lord, forgive me for running from the opposition… the challenges of life, the struggles, the confidence in You. Give me courage to hold fast and move forward. May wisdom be my sister in all things.

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Acts 7:9b-10
But God was with him [Joseph] and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

They go hand in hand, wisdom and opportunity. It is opportunity that gives expression to wisdom.

I have missed so many opportunities to do or say something because of lack of wisdom. I simply did not know or recognize the moment of decision or worse, I recognized it too late.

In college, I was in a sorority and apparently, many of the sisters were active in Campus Crusade for Christ. At the same time that they started having meetings in our rec room, I started dating. I passed up several opportunities to attend one of those meetings in order to go out or hang out with my new boyfriend. Who would I be today if I had met Christ as a young adult?

In Chicago, when I was trying to get “into” the theater scene, I had my choice of small theater companies with which to align. I didn’t really think about it much nor consider my options and as a result, I chose unwisely. I missed out on working at the Steppenwolf Theatre that has since become part of the bedrock of professional theater in Chicago founded by such icons as Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

The list goes on. We all make choices that redirect our lives. Granted, there is no way to know which road is really best. Hindsight is always easier than foresight.

But wisdom is a gift of God. And today, I have no excuse for missing a God-created opportunity. If I pursue my opportunities with prayer and meditation first, then I will be ready to choose.

O Lord, give me discernment and sensitivity to the circumstances of my life today and may wisdom be my sister-friend, whispering truth into my heart and soul.

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