“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”
Is it really true?
“We live in a world where people tend to expect the worst. But God has an amazing plan for each of us, and this plan is not some elusive, mystical riddle we cannot decipher. We can move past dry spells and give up dread and fear. We can shape a vision for our life that is large and special and meaningful.”
- from the introduction
In this inspiring and useful book, Judy Pace Christie helps us to seek and discover God’s will in our lives through listening, discernment, prayer, and perseverence. For individual or group use.
“Hopeful, encouraging, engaging, caring, eloquent, practical, prayerful, devoted, Christ-centered, Judy Pace Christie is all of those and so much more and that becomes radiantly evident as you read her helpful book. In her special and unique way, she encourages us to discover God’s will and live in it, to do our best and trust God for the rest.”
-James W. Moore, author of Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses
“Goodbye, Murphy’s Law is a marvelous handbook of ten lessons with accompanying questions that can inspire you, your study group, or your congregation to take spirituality to the next level.”
-Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, author of The Undivided Soul
Judy Pace Christie, after working as a journalist for twenty-five years, left the daily news business to open a consulting firm that works with individuals, businesses, and churches on strategies for meaningful life and work, including goal-setting, living fully, and balancing personal and professional lives. She is author of the Hurry Less, Worry Less series and co-author of Awesome Altars. Judy and her husband live in northwest Louisiana.
|Publisher:||Dimensions for Living|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Goodbye, Murphy's LawWhatever Can Go Wrong, God Can Make Right
By Judy Christie
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Key
How God's plan can change our lives
Encouraging Word: God wants to do incredible things in your life.
Everyday Step: Decide to seek God's guidance today.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:2
Several months ago I received a key in the mail. It was in a small advertising envelope labeled "key to luxury." For a fleeting moment my heart leaped into my throat, and I thought I had won something. I had the key! Silly as it sounds now, for just a second or two I thought the key was special. Life is often like that. Many of us would welcome the appearance of a magical key to unlock instructions for our lives. We want to live fully, doing what we were created to do.
Amazingly, each of us does have the key to unlock the life God has planned for us. We have the key to living a full and meaningful and enjoyable life—even if we do not yet realize it. The answers are right before us. They may not always seem easy, but they are beautifully simple. They point to a plan for our lives well beyond what we can imagine.
This is a fine sentiment, but it tends to get trampled by daily life. We try to do the right thing and to live with hope. But roadblocks and detours lead us astray. We often refuse to believe God has great things in store for us. We lean toward worry and negative thoughts. In our confusing, complicated world, opinions, ideas, and beliefs are extremely varied. Get a half dozen people together, and you can come up with three dozen opinions on any given subject. But all of us seem to agree that we end up in the slowest grocery line and that we never find a good parking place. Oddly, even people with great lives and immense blessings expect to make the wrong choice or believe things won't continue to go right.
How in the World Did This Way of Thinking Develop?
The Bible contains a wonderful promise that is the key for our everyday lives: God has a perfect plan for each of us. A good, pleasing, and perfect plan. That sounds like something that will go terribly right. Many of us are hungry to live out this divine plan—the one customized just for us—but a great promise can turn into a source of concern and even fear. What if we get it wrong? What if we miss it altogether? Why are we so restless?
For life to blossom into what it can be, we must quit conforming to what the world pushes us to do. We need to allow ourselves the pleasure of being transformed by God—even if that pleasure is sometimes mixed with pain. We must learn to tune in to what God is telling us, to understand the nudge of God in our daily lives—and to know if something goes wrong, God can make it right.
Learning to Know and Do God's Will Takes Time
Knowing God's will does not usually come with a burning bush or handwriting on the wall. Instead, it is like any other ability we want to develop: We must pray, focus on it, learn specific skills, and practice. This all happens by moving forward one step at a time. Restlessness is not God's will for our lives—and Murphy really is not to blame. We must change the way we think. We must open our hearts to a better way. While I do not always know what God wants me to do on any given day, I am pretty sure that pulling the covers over my head and groaning is not the starting point for greatness, nor is believing that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. What kind of life is that?
And yet, many of us feel uncomfortable discussing God's will. We feel a bit like children playing dress-up—as though knowing and doing God's will is something for superspiritual people who wind up as missionaries. Sometimes it seems easier just to take care of the day's business, then head home to assemble a meal and fall onto the couch. It can be downright hard to know what God wants us to do—because we are the people we are. We are busy. We are stubborn. We find it difficult to trust God with our daily lives. We want to be in control. We are selfish. And that's just the short list.
But side-by-side with these traits is a deep desire to do something great with our lives, to hope, and to enjoy.
At Our Core, We Need to Seek God's Will
This goes far beyond a self-centered desire or a wish list. It is a need that haunts us, a question we were created to answer. We search for the best next step. Following God's will as it unfolds makes life rich and full and shapes us to have impact on the world around us.
While we are hobbling along, we can return again and again to this good news: God has a plan for each of us, and it is not some mysterious recipe to be prepared only by those with holy status. This plan is pleasing, and it works out for our good. Take a look again at Romans 12:2, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." As we walk through life, we need a sense of direction. This Scripture provides that and helps keep us on track. The words are a reminder again and again that there is a good, pleasing, and perfect will for each of us. Keep repeating those words until they are seared on your heart and help shape your daily life. Knowing this is God's plan makes our journey less frightening, more certain.
Or, consider this beautiful passage from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls'" (6:16). These words are akin to a modern-day global positioning system—get your bearings, ask for the good way, and walk in it. The words come with a guarantee most mapping programs do not have: follow this path, and you will find rest for your soul.
People I encounter at workshops want this most of all— rest for the soul. We know at some level that such rest comes in doing what God wants us to do. We want to live abundantly, feel happiness, do what we are called to do, love others, and leave the world a bit better because we passed through. This verse is a good road map to help meet those desires day-to-day. Add Romans 12:2, and you have a potent prescription for changing your life.
Take a Fresh Look
Consider where you are in your life and what brings you joy. Be open to serving others and see who appears on your path. Think about what is not working in your life and needs immediate correction. If we acknowledge that God has a plan for our lives, how do we find it? If we feel our great need, how do we satisfy it? Life is complicated, and it takes us in many directions. Even with our best efforts, this feels at times like a cosmic wrestling match. Life has us pinned to the floor.
To start, take a fresh look at your life. Step back and assess how you spend your time and energy each day. Perhaps you need to reconsider your job, for example, and how you are shaping your workday. You may have forgotten what drew you to your career in the first place. Or maybe you will see that you need to spend more time on key family relationships. See what seems to be going right and what needs work. How might God be speaking through your current situation?
As you begin to ponder, pray. Perhaps you believe you cannot pray. Maybe praying seems too hard, even selfish. Sometimes people say they feel as if God is not answering them or they are talking to a brick wall. This is not a deal killer. Your first prayers might be simple: "Guide me, God." "Show me the perfect plan for my life." "Give me insight into how I am to spend my life." Or the old standby: "Help!" Boldly—or tentatively—ask God to show you the perfect will for your life. Ask for your mind to be renewed. You will find "A Prayer for Your Journey" at the end of each chapter in this book to help you get started, and in chapter 4 you will find more details about building a strong prayer life. Begin to plant seeds of prayer, and watch how God nurtures them.
Consider writing prayers and reflecting each day on how God might be answering them. What do you notice happening? When I pray and reflect in my journal, for example, I often see a new direction in which God led me or a personal trend I needed to consider. Or I may identify a nagging problem I need to deal with so I can move on.
Do not be dismayed if you feel distance at times between you and God. Many people experience spiritual dry spells. We are frail and sometimes foolish. We are tempted and often tired. These tough times of searching can help us grow. God wants more for you and will not leave you hanging. "The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness'" (Jeremiah 31:3).
Keep trying, putting one foot before the other, moving along with hope. Keep at it. Notice how life unfolds. God wants you to understand the plan for your life and to use this plan to live with more contentment and meaning. If you stop trying, you are like one of those cool classic cars that people keep under a canvas cover in their garage—seldom put to good use.
Turn to the Bible on your journey. You will find the pages of this book filled with Scripture. Be open to how a verse might speak to you at a given point in your life.
Perhaps most important, decide simply that you want to know and do God's will. Give this your best shot—so you can become the person you were meant to be.
The Gospel of John, in chapter 5, tells a fascinating story about an invalid who lies by a healing pool in Jerusalem with many other disabled people each day. On a trip to Jerusalem, Jesus sees this man and learns that he has been in this condition for nearly four decades. As the scene unfolds, Jesus asks the man an unusual question: "Do you want to get well?" When you read this story, it seems obvious the man wants to get well. However, he does not answer the question. Instead he says he is unable to get into the healing pool; he has no one to carry him; and when he tries to get in, someone else always gets in front of him. The man almost seems to believe it is not possible for him to get well. He is living his own version of Murphy's Law—no one to help, can't get in, not likely to happen.
What Jesus does next shows what can happen in our lives when we are open to the power of God: "Then Jesus said to him, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."
In considering this passage and how I live my daily life, I wonder if God is asking the same question of me, and what my answer is.
The Call to Bigger Things
Sione Tu'uta, a United Methodist pastor who grew up in the country of Tonga, says the story in John reminds us that God is calling each of us to bigger things. To take advantage of these opportunities, we, like the man by the pool, must prepare for what God has for us in the day ahead and must be in a place where we can encounter Christ. Instead of being afraid of our restlessness, Tu'uta suggests using it as motivation to take inventory and say, "I believe I was created for greater than this."
His position: "Be ridiculous and radical in what God is doing in your life."
I believe I am called to do astonishing things, to show what God can do through my everyday life. I want more for God, through God, of God. This means I must depend on God to help me take the best next steps. I must ask for God's help in moving beyond excuses. My excuses sound different from those of the man by the pool ("I am so busy; I have to earn a living; I have so many daily details to take care of; I have other responsibilities"), but their meaning is the same. I wince when I realize how I let excuses get in the way of God's will. But when I acknowledge this shortcoming, I begin to move forward.
Ponder the questions God asks in your life. Are you ready to answer yes? If so, what actions do you want to take this day, this year?
God heals us and empowers us to "get up," to do what we are meant to do. This is what the Creator of the universe wants for us. Christ has "saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9).
What does a holy life look like in these busy days? Do you believe that God has a purpose for you?
While God's will may seem fuzzy and just out of reach, the opposite is actually true. God lays out basic guidelines for us, just the way we lay out basic rules for our children. We will explore these rules in the coming pages. At the core of them all is the Great Commandment: We must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love others as ourselves. In the context of this commandment, we make hundreds of daily decisions. We try our best, and we are forgiven when we fail.
Once we begin to sense God's will for our lives, we can consider how to live this will. This seems to be where a giant disconnect occurs for many of us—the place between knowing and doing God's will. That is when Murphy's Law overtakes us. Doing God's will can be tough. We are overwhelmed by the details of daily life; a spiritual path eludes us. But this journey can make life so much richer and more enjoyable. It can transform each of us from a person who muddles through to an individual who makes a difference and exudes joy.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In the long run, men hit only what they aim at." God's will may seem like a moving target on many days, sometimes for entire seasons of our lives. But I find that when I keep the target in mind, I feel better in my own skin, as though I am truly plugged into the power of God. I know I cannot do everything, so I need to do what I am supposed to do. I find that I accomplish what I focus on. When I focus on everything, I accomplish nothing. When I focus on nothing, I accomplish nothing.
Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, had the right idea: "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9).
Prepare to change your way of thinking—expect better things to happen, enjoy God's plan for your life, and bid Murphy farewell.
A Prayer for Your Journey
Dear God, thank you for my life. Thank you for this day. A new day—what a gift! You are a generous and loving God, and I thank you and ask you to continue to guide me and help me grow in you. I want to do your good and perfect and pleasing will. Please help me know what and how on a daily basis, on a moment-to-moment basis. In the gracious name of Christ, amen.
Excerpted from Goodbye, Murphy's Law by Judy Christie Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
With Gratitude 9
The Key: How God's plan can change our lives 15
Take Hope: God wants good things for your life 25
God's Workmanship: Steps to becoming the person you were created to be 33
Talking with God, Listening to God: How prayer can help 45
Impatient for Change: How to wait for God's guidance 55
Do Less, Be More: Opening up space for God's help 63
Help My Unbelief: How to get on the right path 73
Pain and Triumph: Leaning on God in hard times 81
Alive in Christ: Guidelines for happiness 89
A Contented Heart: Savoring the journey 97
Study Guide for Individuals and Groups 105