2011년 5월 4일 수요일

I Was a Teenage Poverty Pimp

Okay, I stuck the word "teenage" in there for poetic effect. But the basic idea, I was a poverty pimp, holds.

I took taxpayer's money and squandered it in ways that would appall them if they only knew. And I feel compelled to make amends.

You could say that I meant well -- which I did. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I meant to help people get off welfare, which is a goal that the taxpayers can firmly support. But what I did in practice was prop up a bloated bureaucracy that sees welfare recipients as a faceless mass existing purely to keep federal block grant money flowing so that we -- the tax-funded workers -- could keep our jobs.

I tried to make the program functional, within and in spite of the constraints put upon us by Congress and the Bureau of Employment and Training Programs. It was a mostly futile gesture. Call it "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic." Call it "making a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Call it "a day late and a dollar short." It all amounts to the same thing. There is no way that any permutation of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (aka "Welfare Reform"), especially not as interpreted to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment & Training Programs (aka "BETP"), is going to accomplish its stated goals except as a fortuitous side effect.

Most of the people who get off welfare and get jobs would have done so anyway, with or without our program. If our program had any real effect on these people, it was mostly by annoying them so much that even the suckiest dead-end minimum-wage job was an improvement. But if you're going to get people off welfare by annoying them, it would be a lot cheaper and more cost-effective to heard them all into a room and make them listen to tapes of Gilbert Gottfried reading Finnegan's Wake.

What about the people who remain on welfare? Are they, as the Left asserts, plagued by barriers such as lack of training, lack of child care, lack of appropriate health services, and so on? Are they, as the Right asserts, just feckless moochers?

There are some welfare recipients who fit pretty well into one or the other of those stereotypes. "Janice", for example, had housing problems, transportation problems, and less than idea job skills. But her biggest real barrier to long-term employment is that she had mental health problems that weren't severe enough to warrant going on disability, but kept her from developing the coping skills to overcome them and hold down a job. Peer support or even simple coaching would enable her to get and maintain a job.

"Marty", on the other hand, had an illness that limited his ability to do strenuous labor, and didn't have a GED, but he had access to job training and funding for equipment that would have enabled him to earn a living. Marty wasn't interested; his life goal was to leverage his illness into a disability claim so that he could vegetate in front of the TV drinking beer the rest of his life. "Marty" was a slug and a bum -- but he was far more of an aberration that the Right would like to believe.

My observation is that there were far more people like Janice than like Marty. But Welfare Reform isn't set up to serve one or bitch-slap the other. It's set up to fill the welfare recipient's day with federally-approved activities for a federally-mandated amount of time every week, ultimately regardless of what would actually boost the person off welfare and into independence.

So I spent my time channeling folks like Janice into "work skills" activities that really didn't help her, because the skills she needed were illness management. I'd spend time channeling people like "Jose" into "work skills" activities when he needed a combination of English classes and job search. I'd spend time channeling "Jerica" into "work skills" activities when what she needed was to learn to budget for car repairs.

There are things we could be doing to equip people to enter and stay in the job market, and things we could be doing to boot shiftless slugs off the public dole. Most of the former could -- and should -- be done in the school system, not by engaging in "self-esteem" activities, but by teaching them to identify and develop their skills, to set and accomplish goals, and to recognize their own ability to set and follow through on a positive life trajectory. As long as they're trapped in a union-driven public school system that holds kids hostage, none of this is likely to happen. And most of the latter could be booted off the dole -- they'd pretty quickly rearrange their goals to include working for a living.

While I was working inside the system, I could tweak it. I could do my best of encourage my clients, to steer them toward what they really needed, and to creatively interpret the rules to allow them to engage in truly productive, dignity-based activities. I could throw the shiftless out of the program and at least hope that they'd be sanctioned and lose their free money. But I could do nothing to change the wasteful, spirit-crushing, dehumanizing nature of the system as it stands.

I'm praying that I can find work somewhere in the field of public policy, where I can turn my experience into a force for reform. If I do, then the time I spent as an employment and training Case Manger can be redeemed. If I can't, it will always remain a shameful blot on my record: my time as a poverty pimp.

2011년 4월 15일 금요일

Ecclesiastes Chapter 1

From the NIV Study Bible.

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

Solomon (I'll just assume it was Solomon.) beat the Goths and nihilists to the punch by several millennia. So anybody who throws up his hands and yells, "What's the freaking POINT!?!" is following on well worn footsteps. (I've done so myself.)

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

And every generation thinks they're special.

Hey, Phil Collins, screeching, "I won't be coming home tonight / My generation will put it right / We won't be making promises / That we know we'll never keep." Notice that you're an old fart now and you and your generation were no more successful than any generation before you. The world is still a mess. Did you really think that everybody that came before you was a hypocrite and meaningless posturer, and that you and your generation were the first with noble intentions and boundless energy and a determination that you would be able to somehow fix what nobody was able to fix before you?

We all work hard, and it never lasts.

7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

Solomon noticed this long before scientists discovered The Water Cycle.

8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.

Anybody who has tried to stay on top of the laundry and the dishes and to keep the yard mowed and the car running knows this.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

Titanic was new. Hubris wasn't. Titanic is now at the bottom of the Atlantic. And the idea that we can build better and more significant things is an old one. We think we can cheat death with modern medicine and congratulate ourselves. Guess what? The pharaohs thought they could cheat death too. They pyramids are pretty groovy, but the pharaohs are still dead.

11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

Lest you start to think, "Ha, Solomon! We've got you on that! Everybody remembers you!" ask yourself, "What were Solomon's favorite foods? Was he a night person or a morning person? Did he whistle to himself?" We don't know Solomon as a person. We just know what God chose from his work to allow to endure. Solomon himself, the living, breathing man, is just as forgotten as any of his concubines. Were he to show up in the middle of a revival meeting, nobody would recognize him -- unless the Holy Spirit granted knowledge.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

Look at all the results of Communism if you doubt this.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

Amen to that! There's a reason we say happy people wear rose colored glasses. You have to lack the wisdom to see the world as it is to be happy in it -- except for God's grace.

Intro to Ecclesiastes, Part II

Again, from introduction to Ecclesiastes in the NIV Study Bible.

1. Accept the human state as it is shaped by God's appointments and enjoy the life you have been given as fully as you can.

This is hard for me. I always want to change things that are screwy or counterproductive. (BETP Master Guidelines, for example.) But I can't change the nature of bureaucrats any more than I can change the nature of bees. Bees make honey, bureaucrats make rules. I can adapt, I can move on, but above all I need to remember that when Jesus showed up in the flesh, he didn't spend time trying to change the laws and rules and regulations. He worked on hearts and souls and frail human flesh. So it's important to keep that perspective -- that the rules will come and go, but the souls of the bureaucrats, like the souls of the people toiling under the rules, will last forever.

2. Don't trouble yourself with unrealistic goals -- know the measure of human capabilities.

But note that it's unrealistic goals one is to avoid. ("God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change....") One must seek God's wisdom, not man's wisdom, to identify appropriate goals. William Wilberforce, after all, took on the goal of abolishing slavery -- quite a mouthful to bite off! Vivien Thomas took on the goal of making heart surgery a reality. So clearly this isn't a caution not to set big goals. But all things considered, it's the eternal perspective one needs to keep, and allowing God to appoint times and places and people.

3. Be prudent in all your ways -- follow wisdom's leading.

Imprudence just gets you and others hurt.

4. "Fear God and keep His commandments."

And trust Him to order things as they need to be. Esther's parents didn't do anything at all that was worth recording in the Bible -- but had they not married and had a child, what would have happened to the Jews? But it was Esther who came into the world "for such a time as this."

To sum up, Ecclesiastes provides instruction on how to live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully in the theocratic arrangement -- primarily by placing God at the center of one's life, work, and activities. In contentedly accepting one's divinely appointed lot in life, and by reverently trusting in and obeying the Creator-King.

2011년 4월 14일 목요일

Intro to Ecclesiastes

God is good! God is sovereign! I just finished Luke, which I read because it's the book Mars Hill Church is in right now. So I wondered where to go next. Well, I chose Ecclesiastes because I had pulled that sermon series off the Mars Hill web site as my additional nourishment between new Luke sermons. Suffice to say, the timing couldn't be better. Surely God knows what we need and when we need it! Even the introduction alone has given me a firm grounding that I very much need right now. Consider how much I lift here from the NIV Study Bible as an advertisement therefor. I got mine used from Amazon.com for less than $8 including shipping, so don't let fear of the cost stand between you and your own copy if you find this exciting or helpful. The introduction postulates who the author is, then moves on to the content:

With a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. He has attempted to see what human wisdom can do, and he has discovered that human wisdom, even when it has its beginning in "the fear of the Lord", has limits to its powers when it attempts to go it alone -- limits that circumscribe its perspectives and relativize its counsel. Most significantly, it cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of human existence. With respect to these it can only pose questions.

This is a warning to me and all of us not to think that our ideas are God's ideas. It's easy for us to see when other people are screwing up in this area -- when people we consider evil or stupid have social or economic or political plans for making the world a good and happy place. But we are just as convinced as they are as to the great wisdom of our own ideas. Let's not get too big for our britches. So as I look for work and make the related decisions, I can judge if work is good or bad (trash collecting, teaching, healing good; convincing people to buy useless junk, selling abortions, taking advantage of people's vulnerabilities bad). But I can't judge where I specifically need to be at any time. That must be left to God's judgment. I am praying, though, for work that gives me a powerful sense of satisfaction. Epic's recruitment letter has me very excited and already has my brain at work. Do they do health management software for patients? Think of the efficiency and savings! Think of the increased patient satisfaction that would encourage patients to choose health care providers that look at the patient holistically! So I feel very drawn to it. There's also -- though I'm just guessing -- the prospect of much higher pay than I've been used to. Think of the wonderful things I could do with that money! Help to underwrite health clinics and potable water for the poor! Helping to defray adoption expenses! But ultimately it's God's wisdom I have to trust. Moving right along:
Nevertheless, he does take a hard look at the human enterprise -- an enterprise in which he himself has fully participated. He sees a busy, busy human ant hill in mad pursuit of many things, trying now this, now that, laboring away as if by dint of effort humans could master the world, lay bare its deepest secrets, change its fundamental structures, somehow burst through the bounds of human limitations, build for themselves enduring monuments, control their destiny, achieve a state of secure and lasting happiness -- people laboring at life with an overblown conception of human powers and consequently pursuing unrealistic hopes and aspirations.
This is a reiteration of what came before, but with more of a "Don't get a swelled head" focus. Remember that we can have an impact on our corner of the world. We can be honest mechanics, skilled cabinetmakers, top-notch physicians, passionate and skilled teachers -- but we need to trust the overarching story to God.
1. Humans cannot by all their striving achieve anything of ultimate or enduring significance. Nothing appears to be going anywhere, and people cannot by all their efforts break out of this caged treadmill; they cannot ultimately change anything. Hence they often toil foolishly. All their striving "under the sun" 'after unreal goals leads only to disillusionment. 2. Wisdom is better than folly -- it is God's gift to those who please Him.
Stop there for a moment! Wisdom is not something we achieve through our own efforts. It is a gift that God bestows on the smart and simple alike. I need to remember that I have seen people with profound intellectual disabilities that nonetheless possess amazing wisdom. I have seen brilliant people who devastate their lives and the lives of those around them for lack of wisdom. So I need to pray for my "daily bread" of wisdom -- and humility.
But it is unwarranted to expect too much even from such wisdom -- to expect that human wisdom is capable of solving all problems or of securing for itself enduring rewards or advantages.
All of the satisfaction I might find on the job is the same as the satisfaction of the truck driver who gets his cargo where it's going on time, and who is a safe and courteous driver. And ultimately it's no more important. It's just feeding my own particular passions. Never forget the joy of finding a trustworthy mechanic -- and thus never think that your work, because humans might value it more, is of greater value. And it could be that the most profoundly disabled baby who only lives for a few hours has a far greater lasting impact on those around him.
3. Experience confronts humans with many apparent disharmonies and anomalies that wisdom cannot unravel. 4. Although God made humankind upright, people have gone in search of many "schemed" (for getting ahead of taking advantage of others. So even humans are a disappointment. 5. People cannot know or control what will come after them, or even what lies in the more immediate future; therefore all their efforts remain balanced on the razor's edge of uncertainty.
Think of all human endeavors that get blasted to bits by tornadoes or tsunamis. God alone knows what the true and lasting significance of our lives really is.
6. God keeps humans in their place.
Back to the tsunamis. Don't overestimate the value of the work of your own human brains and hands.
7. God has ordered all things, and a human being cannot change God's appointments or fully understand or appreciate them. But the world is not fundamentally chaotic or irrational. It is ordered by God, and it is for humans to accept matters as they are by God's appointment, including their own limitations. Everything has its "time" and is good in its time.
This is a comfort. My stupid choices can still be worked into God's good plan. And I can trust Him to make the best of even my worst. This doesn't mean that I don't have to be as smart and wise and I can be. But it is a reminder not to fret too much over my human failings and shortcomings. Choose as wisely as I can, but trust in God to guide the overall plan. That's enough to chew on for now. More later!

2011년 4월 6일 수요일

The Widow's Mite

He also said to his disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a manager. An accusation was made to him that this man was wasting his possessions. He called him, and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'

"The manager said within himself, 'What will I do, seeing that my lord is taking away the management position from me? I don't have strength to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from management, they may receive me into their houses.' Calling each one of his lord's debtors to him, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe to my lord?' He said, 'A hundred batos of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' Then he said to another, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred cors of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'

"His lord commended the dishonest manager because he had done wisely, for the children of this world are, in their own generation, wiser than the children of the light. I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents. He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren't able to serve God and mammon."

Luke 16:1-13, World English Bible

In light of my recent job, and my renewed interest in public policy, I feel pulled to this passage:

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren't able to serve God and mammon."
People who run programs that give away other people's money tend to be very cavalier about how they spend that money. After all, it's not their money. They get paid to give it away. Why care how much bang the actual person paying the actual bills is getting for his buck?

And therein lies a problem with Christian "social justice" thought. There tends to be a naive assumption that just setting up government programs to "take care of the poor" fixes the problem and thus divests the Christian from responsibility for the poor.

But setting up a boondoggle that supports poverty pimps isn't wise stewardship of the money of the aggregate of taxpayers.

No reasonably intelligent human being would voluntarily give money to an entity as appallingly wasteful as the Federal government. But many Christians have no qualms about voting taxes away from "the rich" and trusting a massive, self-interested bureaucracy to take care of the poor with the "rich" people's money.

First off, from a global and historical standpoint, anybody in America is "the rich". Even the derelicts and bag ladies can readily get food and shelter from a combination of government programs, private charities, and begging. Nobody starves to death or freezes to death from lack of available resources; there has to be another factor, such as being infirm or being a child and having irresponsible caretakers.

So the typical voter is "the rich." Let's just get that out of the way.

Now, back to pissing away the money of those more financially well-off than ourselves. Is there any Scriptural justification for this whatsoever?

We can start with the 10th Commandment:

Exodus 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour's."
There doesn't seem to be an exception for coveting if you plan to give it to somebody else.

1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” - Luke 21:1-4
Jesus doesn't lambaste the rich people for allowing the widow to put in all she had. He commends the widow for her faith and generosity, and dismisses the rich, who give out of their abundance. How much more would he downplay the generosity of those who give out of somebody else's abundance.

So there are multiple problems with Christian "social justice" -- the establishing of government programs to tend to the poor:

  1. There is little virtue in giving away a small portion of your own wealth.
  2. There is even less virtue in giving away large portions of other people's wealth.
  3. There is no virtue in poor stewardship of resources -- your own or other people's.
We are thus called to private charity -- to give to the poor from our own resources, and commendation for giving until it hurts. Workers entrusted with dispensing money -- either in a private charity or working in a government program -- are also called to be good stewards of the money they're dispensing. There is to be no wasteful sucking up of maximum good for oneself -- becoming a poverty pimp. Nor is there to be wasteful disposition of the funds -- giving it away unwisely, for example underwriting poor stewardship of the poor person's own resources by rewarding sloth and poor financial planning. And most government programs -- and many private charities -- do just that. They punish the poor who steward their resources well by refusing to help them when they're in a tight spot temporarily, and they reward the spendthrift by helping people who don't save and don't pay their bills.

We need to give of our own resources, not other people's, and to give wisely.

2011년 3월 23일 수요일

Help and Guidance

Dear Lord, as I begin my study today, show me how I can trust in You for guidance, especially now as I'm contemplating my career path.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I pray, o Lord, that I will renew strength in my mind and spirit, so that I may become a powerful tool in helping the vulnerable to become stronger, to be free of the sins that trap them in poverty and discouragement.

Isaiah 54:14, 15, 17
In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.

Does this mean I'll be given strength to fight those who oppress the poor in the name of the government?

Psalm 18:48
Who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me.

My current foes are spiritual foes -- workers of Satan who lead me astray. Lord, keep me safe from their works and effects.

Matthew 18:18-19
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

There are many of us, Lord, agreeing on building a society that rewards virtue and punishes wickedness. Be at our side, within us, and before us. Guide us in Your ways as we work.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I know I am backslidden. Bring my new Bible to me quickly and guide me in my studies, so that I may drink in Your Word and be given guidance, strength, refreshment, and righteousness.

Hebrews 8:12
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Cast my sins from Your sight and guide my feet away from them daily.

Psalm 86:5
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.

I call to you, Lord. Let me feel your love more strongly in times of trouble, as I did that day Dan died.

Mark 11:24
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

I ask for guidance in my work, my family, and my finances. Also I ask for guidance in finding sound fellowship, discipleship, and accountability.

John 7:38
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

Let the streams of living water flow from me, Lord, to slake the thirst of others who do not even know yet that they thirst for You.

Luke 11:13
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Is my volitility a gift? My lability? If so, show me, for I truly hate them. Are they signs that I have sinned and fallen away from you? Are they a 2x4 that you use on me when I don't get more gentle hints?

Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

Especially, Lord, my tongue as I speak to clients, co workers, and higher-ups.

Acts 5:32
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

Teach me to obey!

Acts 2:4
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Give me the words I am to speak as I go through my days.

1 Corinthians 14:2
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

I'm not sure how this applies to me.

1 Corinthians 14:4
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

Again, not sure about this one.

Luke 10:19
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Give me wisdom to discern the agents, works, and effects of the Enemy, that I may cry out for Your power to defeat them.

I John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Let me always be more attuned to Your presence, and flee there instinctively at times of attack.

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Set me free from this body of death!

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Let me clearly see the Devil's effects, that I may resist.

Ephesians 6:11
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

Guide me in doing this every day.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Take away this constant anxiety, this jangling of the nerves. Let me know that Your hand is guiding me, even if it guides me far from the wisdom of the world.

Psalm 138:3
When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.

Let me know when to be bold and when to be compliant.

Romans 8:35
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

In times of trouble, show me Your way that I may know where to stand.

That feels like enough for now, Lord. Let this ferment in me during the day. Amen.

2011년 3월 22일 화요일


Dear Lord

One of my problems is that I'm willing to follow You in big things, but my failure to be obedient in little things puts me out of touch with You will, so that I end up flopping about like a landed trout.

He who is faithful in little things will be faithful in big things, right? You don't start with the huge things then figure the details will work out later. That's more of an earthly thing.

So, this morning's study -- How do I put myself in a position where Your hand is guiding me and I can start relaxing and stop worrying about constantly screwing up His plan for me?

I'm going here for a start: God's Guidance and His Promises to Bless Those Who Seek His Face

I need to start straight up that I realize you have been blessing me with financial stability, a cozy home, and my daughter and granddaughters. Yes, I'm hungry for more -- fellowship, reconciliation with my family, meaningful work, etc. Teach me to let go of the things you don't want me to pursue, and to go diligently after those that are in Your will. And, I suppose, prayer is the place to always start.

1 Chronicles 16:11
Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.

Help me to be continually seeking Your face, and not just at odd times like when I'm doing housework and when I'm ticked off at You.

Psalm 25:9
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Teach me to be humble in ALL my dealings. Thank you that I often am willing to learn from "the least of these" -- many of my clients -- but also teach me to be willing to learn from those placed in places of authority, but whose decisions frustrate me.

Psalm 25:12
Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.

That's what I need. Instruction in the way I should choose. In small things as well as bigger.

Psalm 31:3
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

Yes, Lord. Otherwise I do stupid and hurtful things and am not a good witness.

Psalm 32:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

Please do!

Psalm 37:4,7
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass ... Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him

Oh, Lord, the PATIENCE is so hard! And I don't want to be taught patience! So that's one where you're going to have to grant me a desire of my heart.

Psalm 37:23
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.

I'll take that with a grain of salt, since I know I'm not good. I don't let You work through me as much as I ought.

Psalm 48:14
For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.

"I can't see how you're leading me, unless you've led me here, to where I'm lost enough to let myself be led."

Psalm 73:24
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

I'm not even so much worried about glory right now as I am about where to work and where to fellowship. So I guess I'm too shortsighted.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path

And I am not immersed in Your word nearly enough. I need to stop being a cheapskate and just buy that NIV Study Bible. In fact, I'll go do that right now.

DONE! Why was I being such a cheapskate? I'm getting a gently used NIV Study Bible delivered to my door for less than $10. There's a difference between good stewardship and being a cheapskate. And I'm more cheap than a good steward, really. I don't pay close enough attention to my finances. Lord, help me with that.

Proverbs 1:33
But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.

More or less. Many believers got swept away by the tsunami, I'm sure. But they were swept straight into the arms of Jesus.

Proverbs 2:6-9
For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.

And I need trust that You will guide me. Tell me when to tough it out and when to move on, when to fight and when to compromise.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

In ALL YOUR WAYS. I need to pray for EVERY "stick it out or leave? Fight or compromise?" situation.

Proverbs 3:6
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

ALL my ways. Again.

Proverbs 6:22
When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.

I need to be spoken to. I need guidance.

Proverbs 11:3
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

My search for integrity separate from You gets me into trouble. It turns from integrity to pride. Guard me from that.

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Oh, Lord, how I hunger for an abundance of counselors! But am I to FIND this or to BUILD it? There is sound scripture at GJCF, but fellowship is so hard to find. Do I take that as a sign that the church is unfaithful, and more on? Do I be a change agent there to help others be led into fellowship? Guide Peggy and the others I come in touch with as I try to build fellowship at GJCF. Oh, how I long for a Mars Hill campus near me!

Proverbs 12:26
A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Melanie's been smacking me with that one! Thanks for the insight!

Proverbs 15:22
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.

Yes, Lord, back to this. And I guess fellowship should have been my #1 priority. It should always be in a new place -- to put myself where I have many brothers and sisters to smack me upside the head when I'm out of line.

Proverbs 16:9
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

Please do!

Proverbs 24:6
For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

We're back to abundance of counselors. I'm going to take this as a sign that You're reminding me to pursue fellowship more vigorously. So do I do that by seeking a different church? Or by helping to channel GJCF?

Isaiah 30:21
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left'


Isa 50:4
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

Yes -- to sustain with a word him that is weary! I want to do that!

Isaiah 48:17
Thus says the Lord, Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go

Lead me!

Isaiah 58:11
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

I am in a parched place, spiritually. How I long for streams of Living Water! Fill me! Make me a fountain for others!

Jeremiah 10:23
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps

I get too afraid of directing my own steps in big things, that I fail to fear it in small things. Guide me in all things.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Fill me with solid assurance of this!

Jeremiah 33:3
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

Wow. Just wow.

Matthew 6:33
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I go astray there, for sure. Set me every day to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness.

Luke 11:9-10
"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

I need to seek and ask for the small things first, and let the larger things be added. Such as reconciliation with my family.

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Give me light! Give me Light!

John 14:26
The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Holy Spirit, teach me all I need to know moment by moment.

John 16:13
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Guide me in ALL truth. Not just the truth I find pleasant or that flatters my ego.

Romans 14:5
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

guide me on that.

1 Cor. 10:13
...God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let me see what constitutes temptation. I don't know when I'm fighting the good fight and when I'm being sucked in by my pride.

Philippians 2:13
It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

I guess You'd do more work in me if I was less pigheaded and stopped fighting.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.

Wisdom! I have in dire need of wisdom!

Guide me in all my ways. Bring me into perfect concordance with Your will moment by moment.

In Jesus' good name, Amen.