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Always Write Your Plans in Pencil

  • Len M. Allen Author, Unemployed: Life in the Wildernes
  • Updated Dec 28, 2011
Always Write Your Plans in Pencil

Are your plans working out?  Are you frustrated and perhaps even a little angry at God because your goals are falling short or disappearing altogether?  What is going on? 

When we experience unemployment, especially extended unemployment as so many Americans are, we cry out to God for His help.  But exactly what kind of help are we asking Him for?  When our plans are so drastically altered by a huge change in our lives, what is our attitude supposed to be?  What perspective should we bring to a monumental test of faith and future?

All my life I have been a list maker.  When I was a Boy Scout and we were going camping, I remember making a list of all the things I wanted to take and then crossing things off to get the items to a manageable number I'd be able to carry in my backpack.  I was even told Santa Claus made a list and checked it twice  It became confirmed in my thinking that for ordering my life, lists were an excellent idea.

As I started my career in television advertising I quickly discovered that a daily "to do" list made activities go more smoothly and helped me achieve my daily, monthly, and yearly goals.  Lists were, and still are, a great way to get my thoughts organized and heading in the right direction. 

When I was making a career change from television to newspaper advertising, I clearly remember a prospective employer asked me what I wanted to be doing in five years.  I realized I hadn't made a list of my future plans and goals.  So I did.

Most experts on finances tell us that making a shopping list will cut down on impulse spending and assist us in controlling our expenditures. Even in writing my first book, I would start with a title, and then add a list of chapter headings and a list of subtexts I wanted to cover.  I put the lists together and "poof" - I had a book.  In a "Harper's Bazaar" article Martha Stewart recently said, "Life is too complicated not to be orderly."  I couldn't agree more.  To stay focused on complicated tasks there is nothing like a good list.

God even uses lists.  The Ten Commandments is a great example, and the Sermon on the Mount also gives us a wonderful list to consider.  Once you start looking for them, the Scriptures are full of places where God gives us lists. In all my years of Bible study and career up's and down's I finally learned one of the most significant lessons of my life.  God wants us to make plans.  

Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance. Proverbs 20:18


The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

He is an organized God, and He likes it when we organize our lives -  especially when our organizing is done in order to obey, serve, and please Him and bring glory to His Son, Jesus Christ. 

But just making the list of plans wasn't my significant lesson.  The most important thing I learned as I went through various trials in my life was, "Never use a pen to make your list."  There is absolutely nothing permanent about my list. 

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. 
Proverbs 16:9

God wants man's mind to make his plans, but the Lord keeps the prerogative of overriding any plan that doesn't conform to His sovereign will.  As we list our plans and goals we can't see into the future.  We can't even see how God may want to use us to accomplish His purposes in the people around us.  So, as we go through our lives God has the right to change our plans. 

Isn't that what it means for Him to be "Lord"?  Anyone who has gone through a long period of unemployment has experienced how the Lord can take our lists of desires, hopes, dreams, and rewrite them to match His plan for our lives.

Jeremiah 29:11 clearly states that God has plans for His people. But He doesn't necessarily give us the details in advance.  In fact, He has never given me the details in advance!  When He called Abraham to leave his home the Lord basically said, "Start traveling; I'll tell you when you get there (Genesis 12:1)."  Abraham might have made a list of plans and even potential destinations but God wrote in the details - making changes where He saw the need.

As we walk through our lives we should definitely make our plans, make our lists, but we should write those plans in pencil - so that as God leads us through the daily details and reveals His desires, we can easily make adjustments.  Just erase that next item and pencil in a new plan based upon how the Lord is leading.  Making plans and setting goals and then demanding that God honor and fulfill them or else doesn't allow for His will to take us where He desires. It is important for each of us to acknowledge that God is not required to live up to our expectations.  Rather, we are commanded to live up to His.

Changing the plans of life when written in pencil is much less stressful than when we cling to our list of goals as if they were written in permanent marker.  May God bless you as you daily adjust your plans to match up with "the way" God is leading your life.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go
to such and such a city, and spend a year there
and engage in business and make a profit."
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while
and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say,
"If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

James 4:13-15  

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

Originally posted May 7, 2010.

Born and raised in South Dakota, Len Allen began college at South Dakota State University. He transferred to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu where he attended for 3 years majoring in commercial art and art history. In 1972 he graduated from Sioux Falls University back in his home state of South Dakota.

He returned to Hawaii where he began his career as a ditch-digger and met his wife, Beverly. Because of Bev's influence, Len went from ditch-digger to corporate Vice President within one and a half years and his career was off and running. They have lived and worked in Hawaii, California, South Dakota, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Texas and are now back in their old home of Chattanooga. They have been married 36 years and have a 21 year-old son attending college.