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And where does this piece go?

It is the time of year when students everywhere are graduating from their classes in high schools and universities - intent on making their way in this world.  Speeches will be read, mortar boards will be thrown, and parties will be had.  When it is all said and done, the let down as they enter into this "real world" can be tremendous.  Some will branch out in directions only their minds-eye can fathom, while others will follow the more traditional paths set by those who have gone before them.  The choice about which road to take is established in their hearts as independence begins to bring new opportunities into their path.  In time, they settle into the course they believe is the best for their lives.  I think we ALL have those moments of "graduation" in our lives, when we stand at a crossroads of sorts, choices laid out before us, and then having to choose which one we think will serve us the best.  If we choose well, the road ahead will be navigated with ease.  Choose unwisely and the incessant twists and turns can make a sane person mad!

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.  (I Peter 2:21 MSG)

We are invited into life with Christ - a road many determine to be too narrow, too focused, and way to intense for their liking.  For those who choose this road, the journey proves to be quite awesome.  Sure, there is intensity at times, but the intensity only builds character.  We are invited into the kind of life Christ lived.  Do we really know what that entails?  I think we have glimpses of it in scripture, but when we take the first step down this path, do we really comprehend the way Christ lived as a means of how we will begin to live our lives today?  Not really.  We often just take the first step in faith and then wait to see what doors will open to us along the way.

The important part of the journey is the one who has already "made the way" for us to walk.  It was his intentional embracing of all the suffering he was faced with that actually provided the framework by which we learn to walk in this life today.  Here is the crux of the matter - we need to learn to follow the example which has been set for us!  When we have an example to follow, but choose to ignore it completely, seeing it as a "nice thing", but not "for us", we open ourselves up to all kinds of issues.  If you tried to sew a wedding dress from a bolt of fabric, just looking at a design you saw in a magazine, you would likely struggle a little with it turning out well.  What you need is the "pattern" to follow.  Try as you might, you can come "close" to recreating the image of what you see when you just "eyeball it", but when you have the pattern and follow it, you come a lot closer!

Jesus' example does two things for us - it shows us how to live, but it also shows us it CAN be done.  We often focus so much on the "I can't" of the circumstance - God's plan is for us to consider Christ first, and then focus on more of the "I CAN through Christ Jesus who lives in me".  It is like we follow the pattern - seeing the creation of something beautiful as a result.  There have been times when I have tried to sew a garment and the pattern comes with all these small pieces here and there.  They don't resemble much, but omit even one of them and the garment just doesn't look or hang as well on your frame.  Why?  All the pieces played a part - none was expendable.

In following Christ's example, we need to recognize that nothing he modeled was "expendable".  He took time to pray - because communication with his Father was important and provided a means of receiving not only help, but connection and peace.  He took time to fellowship - because he needed the strength of relationship and the companionship of those along for the journey. He took time to rest - because the journey is long and we are never at our best when we are spent.  He took time to notice the small stuff - because he knew if he let the small stuff pass him by, the big stuff would swallow up the enjoyment the small stuff provides.  We cannot discount anything he did as he walked this earth - because it all has meaning - nothing he portrayed is expendable!

When the journey is hard and the way seems unclear, we need to do what Jesus did - come away, take time to refocus, and then embrace the challenge. It isn't a magic formula we follow, but when we see the pattern unfolded before us, we need to recognize no part of what is displayed and provided is without a specific purpose in our lives.  Follow the pattern and you are more likely to produce a thing of beauty in the end.  Just sayin!

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