Thursday, October 13, 2011

Counting the Cost and Remembering Why?

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
It might be time for some better armor!
Luke 14:27-31
And anyone who does not carry his cross 
and follow me cannot be my disciple.
   28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. 
Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Have you ever decided you wanted to master some discipline, or to achieve some big goal or dream or to make some significant change in your life. When you first start out everything is exciting and new. Eventually the excitement wears off and you begin to realize that the task you've taken on is harder than you expected. Making changes in our lives takes a lot of work and commitment. Its kind of like the people who each year make all kinds of grand New Years resolutions only to realize a month later that they have given up. 

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. 
When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, 
then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. 
If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. 
Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State 
will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, 
 other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. 
Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences 
that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, 
not lengthy campaigns.
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

There are some things that can help you stick to your plan and actually make it to your intended goal. One of those things is to remember why you are making the change. 

If you remember and embrace the "why" the how will follow. It is critical to remember why what you are doing is important, and what achieving it will mean. How will it change your life and impact the lives of others around you. How will life be better or different when you have reached your goal?

What are the reasons you went back to school and why are you staying up late to study. It may be questions of why are you working all those extra hours - what will it feel like to be caught up on bills or to be able to afford that vacation or much needed item of furniture.  It might be the kids and the sacrifices you are making for them to be educated in a way that you desire. It may be your health and loosing a significant amount of weight. Or quitting smoking or some other addictive habit.  We all have things that we want to change in our lives. We need to really know why we want to make that change and somehow keep sight of the why through out the journey to our goal.

Sometimes I find that I have to break big goals down in to little steps. I have to celebrate the little victories along the way. Sometimes we can be trying to do the right thing for the wrong reasons and as a result we will get stalled somewhere along the way to our goal. At that point we have to examine the why and sometimes we need to find a better why that will get us all the way to our goal.

I was asked the other day why,  at age 50 I was taking piano lessons. It adds a lot of extra daily practice time into my already busy schedule. Its pretty un likely for me to achieve the level of skill to be able tour the country doing concerts or to teach. I might be able at some point to keep up enough to play as part of a worship team. Why is it important for me to find the time to practice, to spend the money on lessons?  Unless I can hold on to the "why" I will give up, other things will fill up my time. I do have a very clear why. I was at a big women's conference about 4 years ago. I remember very little of what was said from the platform. There was a moment in that sea of thousands of women that I heard God very clearly say I was to take piano lessons from a lady at church who is now my current instructor.  I thought cool - if Gods telling me to take piano maybe he will zap me with the skill and ability and I'll be playing and writing music in no time.  I have discovered that piano is much more difficult than I ever imagined. I have really had to work. In the process I have discovered deeper whys. It helps to order my mind in a way that it not natural for me. It keeps me in contact with my teacher and friend who has been one of my strongest prayer allies. I have learned that progress comes in little steps and progress continues unless one gives up and quits. There are weeks when I don't get in enough practice time to pass my pieces and I have to spend another week on them rather than moving ahead. Even on those weeks progress is made. I have learned that a big part of the why for me is I want to be able to arrange and write music on the piano. I am actually doing that now and I will do more. I have so much still to learn but I have come to realize that I am not anxious about reaching the goal because I am enjoying the journey to it.

There are other things that God has shown me. Little glimmers of direction off in the future. They are like light houses in the distance, who's beam upon my path keeps me from tripping over the roots and from getting stuck in the ruts.  They give me hope as I travel on my journey.  I know that God's plans for me are good so I hold onto that truth even when circumstances try to tell me other wise. I know that He loves me and that He will help me to figure out His will, His plan and His purposes for my life.
I did not come to this place of trust and faith in an instant it has been the journey of the past 30 some years filled with little steps of faith. I can look back on all the times God has provided when I could not see the answer. I can look back and remember His faithfulness every step of the way and in doing so I can look ahead with faith to believe He will never leave or forsake me. He will be with me every step of the way forward.

Dear Lord,
Help each of us remember the "why" for the things we are doing as we stretch to reach some goal or dream that you have planted in our hearts. Help us to remember how this choice will impact our lives, and your kingdom. Help us to see how what we are doing is helping to mold and shape us to be more and more like Jesus. Lord if we have lost our way and lost the "why" help us to re-discover your plan and purpose for our life. Guide and walk beside us today and every day.

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