Imagination and Possibilities: The God of Something out of Nothing

Recently, on my way to work, I began to pray in great faith for my future.  I’m in another season of transition.  Over the next few months, I will be changing jobs and living situations.  As of right now, everything is completely up in the air and I have no sense of where I’ll end up.  This is a combination of frightening and exciting.  But I have been dreaming, dreaming, dreaming through the process.  I have been stepping out in bold faith and for once in my life, I have begun praying for what I want, rather than what I feel like God wants to hear.  Rather than asking for a job, I’m asking for a specific position, what would be the “dream-job” for me.  Rather than asking for an apartment, I’m asking for a water view.  Instead of praying for opportunities and alignments, I am praying to be connected with specific people and individuals.  In Psalm 126:5, it says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”  I am somewhere between sowing and reaping.  I have certainly sown my tears and am eagerly anticipating a harvest of joy in my life.  But I am in the waiting process.  I have been so bold as to ask God every day, bring my season of reaping into now!  Accelerate the process!  Lead my steps and walk me straight to destiny’s porch.  I’m ready to kick the door in and walk into my breakthrough.  Bring it.

I’m not sure if God will do things in the specific ways that I am praying, but I do know that it tells me in His word (Ps. 37:4) that if I delight myself in Him, He will give me the desires of my heart.  I am recognizing more and more that God delights in my dreaming.  He wants to hear, from my lips, the things my heart longs for…and it’s in His plan and purpose to meet those longings!  Maybe not according to my specifications and timelines, but in ways that exceed my comprehension and go beyond anything I could ever plan or wish for myself.  Sometimes He grants our specific desires, sometimes he leads us along a different path and blesses us differently than we would have expected and sometimes he takes our desires and grants them with interest and upgrades!

My faith has been brewing.  My expectation is high.  And I wake up every day in anticipation.  My Pastor said it this week in church, we are only one breakthrough away.  It’s on the way.  As I was praying on my way to work, it occurred to me that even with great faith and expectation, sometimes we don’t see anything on the horizon.  The phone doesn’t ring.  The mailbox is empty.  The routine doesn’t seem to change.  Then the Holy Spirit reminded me, our God is the God that makes something out of nothing.  Not only does He make something out of nothing, He makes greatness out of nothing.  He makes constellations, galaxies and the universe out of nothing.  Romans 4:17 tell us He brings the dead back to life and creates new things out of nothing.

God has given us the ability to imagine for things that do not yet exist.  We are born that way, but some of us have lost it due to life experiences that disappointed and hardened us.  But think about a child.  A child can look at a box and see a boat.  They can look at a strainer and see a crown.  They can step over a crack in the sidewalk and imagine they are leaping over the Grand Canyon.  They can take nothing and make something out of it.  They can take the most mundane day and live it like an adventure.  There is so much we can learn about God from the faith of a child.   There is so much we can learn of His infinite ability to create opportunities and possibilities from the “nothing situations” of our live.

Don’t be discouraged by your “nothing” and start dreaming with the Lord over the big “something” He is about to do with your life.

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On Pain and Growth

Does anyone out there like pain?  I know that I sure don’t.  You know what I like?  Comfort.  Ease.  Luxury.  I like the idea of me in a beach chair, reclined on a beautiful secluded island, sipping an iced cinnamon dolce latte with the warm sun beating down on me.  I like the seasons in life that feel easy, when things just seem to click, everything just seems too function with minimal effort and strength exerted.  Unfortunately, those aren’t the times in life when I do the most growing.  Growth comes when life gets hard.

I listened to a teaching from Steven Furtick recently.  He talked about how eating Dorito’s may bring him comfort in the moment, but it is actually bad for his body.  On the other hand, exercise might bring discomfort in the moment, but it is actually very good for your body and overall health.  In another teaching I listened to, T. D. Jakes describes a leg injury he had.  The doctor urged him to walk on it and it hurt…a lot.  The doctor told him, “It might hurt, but it won’t hurt you.”  Pain is always going to be uncomfortable, but there is a difference between pain that is good for you and pain that just hurts.

Looking at my own life, I realize that I am never more challenged to grow than when I am experiencing some pain and discomfort in my life.  Pain challenges me to get really honest with myself.  Where am I (really) at in my relationship with Jesus?  What have I allowed to get in the way of that relationship with him?  What lies have I been believing that need to be challenged and confronted?  What ways of thinking and operating have I been living with that have ultimately been detrimental to my growth and kept me stunted?  Am I living with unresolved pain?  What roots need to be pulled up so I can break out of unhealthy patterns?  These are all questions I never ask myself when life is easy.  There is no need to.  Sometimes the only way that God can get our attention is by allowing us to get to a point that we are so uncomfortable that we are finally willing to recognize and accept that we need a drastic change.  But guess what?  The road to change is painful and not easy.  But it’s the good kind of pain.  The kind that brings you from where you are to where you need to be.  It’s the kind of pain that produces something good in you.  It’s useful pain.  Life-transforming pain.

Here’s the thing.  Even when we live in our comfort zones, we experience pain to some degree.  The pain of settling for a life that is less than God has for us.  The pain of knowing that we are not living in and experiencing true freedom.  The pain of secretly wishing life was different.  The pain of knowing we were made for something more, but feeling stuck where we are.  This is the kind of pain that tricks us into thinking we are okay where we are at.  It might be a dull ache, but it saps us of our energy, strength and vitality.  We need to trade our pain.  We need to suck it up, surrender and get ready to handle the pain of surgery and recovery.  We might as well choose the sort of pain that leads us down the road of growth and restoration.

When Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross, he said this to His disciples:

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice.  You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.  It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor.  When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.  So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. (John 16:20-22)

I just love that!  Jesus allowed his disciples to weep, to mourn and to grieve.  He didn’t have to allow that.  He could have chosen not to go to the cross.  Imagine the relief it would have given His disciples in the moment, if He had just decided not to go.  If he told them, I won’t go to the cross.  I’ll stay with you instead.  Jesus could have lived out the remainder of his human existence teaching and instructing his disciples.  He could have died of old age instead.  That would have brought the disciples great comfort.  However, they would never know the joy of experiencing eternal salvation.  They would have no idea what it is to have God live in them, by His Holy Spirit.  And they would ultimately, experience the pain of eternal separation from Jesus.  A pain far worse than the temporary separation that the crucifixion would bring.

We have the tendency to think that pain is bad, but some pain is good and protects us from experiencing far worse pain later on.  Sometimes the road that God leads us down is long, tedious and painful.  Stay the course.  God is a God of suddenly.  When we allow God to lead us down the road of suffering, we will reach a point where our grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.  The sort of joy we are talking about is real and lasting.  It’s different from the momentary comforts that only leave us feeling good for so long.  Just wait for it, in a moment’s notice, your pain is going to have to move aside and make room for the great joy that is going to flood your life.

Get ready.

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Awaken the Dawn

O God, my heart is steadfast {with confident faith}; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.  Awake, harp and lyre; I will awaken the dawn! (Ps. 108:1-2)

According to dictionary.com, the word dawn signifies the first appearance of daylight, the beginning or the rise of anything or to begin to open or develop.  We use the terms night and darkness to figuratively refer to periods of suffering and difficulty in our lives, while we use the “coming of dawn” to represent new beginnings, new life, a shifting of seasons and an end to brokenness.  In Psalms 30:5, we are told, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with morning.”

This scripture points out an often overlooked truth: We can awaken the dawn with our praise.  We have the ability to hasten the appearance of dawn in our lives, by choosing to praise God in the middle of our night season.  This is a principle my pastor pointed out to me a few weeks ago.  I had received some negative reports.  Although I didn’t know all the facts, my heart immediately panicked.  My mind went down the rabbit hole of all the potentially devastating possibilities and I was gripped in fear.  When I learned all the facts, nothing was as bad as I imagined, but the damage was already done.  What could have been a perfectly good week was ruined, because of my fear.  I was challenged to consider the following:  When faced with adversity and challenges, will I choose faith or fear?  Will I choose to run to the place of worship or the place of worry?  Rest assured.  It is my choice to make.  Will I wallow in darkness or awaken the dawn?

Consider Acts chapter 16.  Paul and Silas have been thrown into prison for preaching the gospel.  In verses 25-26, were are told, “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.  Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations.  All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!”  There are a few things about this that God really highlighted to me.  First of all, notice what time it is.  It is midnight.  Paul and Silas are literally sitting in a dark dungeon cell.  We are told earlier in the chapter that their feet are clamped and the jailer has been ordered to make sure they don’t escape.  But take note of what Paul and Silas are doing.  In the midst of their darkness, in the midst of their imprisonment, they are singing praises to God.  There feet may be clamped, but their mouths certainly aren’t.  We are told the other prisoners are listening…The praises of Paul and Silas are used to change the atmosphere in the prison and the praises they sing in the midst of their suffering draws everyone’s attention.  Suddenly, the praise that comes from inside of Paul and Silas changes their external circumstances.  The prison is shaken to its foundation, the doors fly open and the chains of all the prisoners fall off!

How differently would we respond to our circumstances, if we really understood that our praise and worship of God in the middle of our trials and pain could be a catalyst in our lives for so great a move of God that it causes the doors of opportunity to fly open before us and every chain that has held us back to drop to the floor?  What if we understood that the moments of our lives when everything around us is shaken have the potential to release us from bondage?  What if we understood that when we feel stuck and trapped with no way out, that our praise is the key to unlock our freedom?

The night has lasted for far too long.  It is time to awaken the dawn.

 

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Prisoners of Hope

The other day I was reading in the book of Zechariah, chapter 9, in a passage where the Lord declares judgement on the enemies of Israel. As I was reading, these words that God spoke concerning His people Israel jumped off the page:

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you…The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. (Zechariah 9:11-12, 16)

This season has been all about transition for me, the in-between, not where I was, but not yet where I want to be. I have definitely begun to see God moving in several areas of my life where previously I had not seen much fruit. Suddenly, I have been seeing prayers answered and things begin to move in a positive direction. God is taking me by the hand and step by step I am walking forward into what He has called me to. But I have not yet reached, where I am heading.

For a long time, I buried my dreams, because of woundedness, discouragement and disappointment. Recently, I took my dreams off the shelf and began standing in the place of faith and belief once more. When I did that, things started to move. I have noticed though that in this time of transition and in this period of in-between, the invitation to fear is always there. I’ll admit that I have fallen victim to fear several times in the midst of this process. In fact, it seems that the closer I get to where I am heading, fear speaks louder. What does it sound like? It whispers all the old familiar lies. It throws my past up in my face and tells me, “Things will never be different. You will always be disappointed.” It tells me, “Don’t get your hopes up. This is bound to fail.” It tells me, “You have to be crazy to take the risks that your taking, you are only going to fall.” Entertaining these thoughts is a slippery slope. It will skew your perception of your circumstances and lead you away from confident trust in Father God. It will cause you to forget that our Father is a good Father, who gives good gifts to His children, who loves us with an everlasting love and promises to get us to the finish line of the work that He has already begun in our lives.

It is so easy to be a prisoner of fear. I would rather be a prisoner of hope, like the passage in Zechariah describes. I want to be bound and shackled to hope, unable to escape from hope. I want hope to be the pervasive theme of my thoughts that I can’t get rid of. I want to hear echoes of hope resounding in my mind. I want to train my mind to see glimmers of hope in all my circumstances, even the most scary ones. I want to feel hope surging up in my heart as I consistently reflect on the goodness of my Father. I want to hope against all odds. Grounded in hope, I want to be able to take huge leaps of faith, to love people without restraint and to believe without the threat of failure or disappointment.

It’s time to return to our fortress…I often hide behind walls that I have built up to protect my own heart. Over the years, the enemy has helped me to build up these walls brick by brick, layer by layer. Together we have built these walls on the foundation of his deceptions and the lies that he has spoken over me. He has whispered in my ear, “Hide behind this wall and you’ll be safe. Safe from being hurt and safe from failure. Step outside this wall and you’ll be crushed.” We have all built these walls before and one thing that I have learned is that while walls may keep you safe, they also keep you from experiencing the thrill of adventure. They keep you from experiencing life to its fullest, love without reservation and the joy of surprises. They keep you from growing and moving forward. The walls become a prison. They aren’t a fortress they are a prison.

According to google’s definition, a fortress is a heavily protected or impentrable building; a person or thing not susceptible to outside influence or disturbance. This is what God promises to be to us. When we cling to Him, though the storms may rage, we will not be shaken. We are under his protection. We are safe from outside influence and disturbance. Circumstances may fail, but He never fails us. Things may fall apart, but we never will, when we find refuge under His wings. If we are too afraid to try, we will never realize how instead of falling apart, things just might come together. But one way or another, God promises to never leave us alone in the process. People come and go, but He is glued to our side. We can be safe in that and reassured in that. We can hide in Him.

When we choose to let down our walls and instead run to our fortress, Father God, the heavy weights and burdens we are carrying can fall by his feet. We can experience freedom. And freedom looks beautiful on you. I want to be one that sparkles and shines like a jewel in a crown as I experience the freedom that comes with giving up control and putting all my trust in God. I want to smile and laugh and embrace the blessings of each day, as I surrender it all to papa. I’m in good hands.

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Hanging unto Hope

Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out towards sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!” And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:41-45)

At the time that Elijah began to pray for rain, there was a severe famine and drought in the land that lasted for several years. God had brought the drought and famine due to the wickedness of the Israelites, in turning away to other Gods. God needed for the Israelites to understand that He was sovereign and in control. He had brought the drought and He would be the one to take it away.

As I read this passage recently, God highlighted to me Elijah’s persistence and perseverance in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. At this point, the Israelites were about three years into this drought and there was not a rain cloud in sight. Yet, Elijah’s faith, confidence and trust in God drove him to his knees to pray. Elijah continuously sends his servant to look out towards the sea. Six times his servant brings back a negative report. Not a rain cloud in sight. Elijah does not lose hope or determination. He simply prays again. On the seventh time, a small rain cloud, the size of a man’s hand appears. Elijah knows that the rain is about to come. Sure enough, the rain begins to fall.

This summer, I went through a personal draught/famine of sorts. I was hit with some personal issues and trials that attempted to knock me out of the ring. I struggled to have faith and to keep my hope levels up. In the face of situations that had fallen through and unfulfilled promises, I felt discouraged and disappointed. Somewhere in the process, I guarded my heart against hope and stopped dreaming all together. I reasoned that if I didn’t dream, I couldn’t be disappointed. Another disappointment would be too much to take.

Interestingly enough, around this same time, the small group I attend started talking about dreams. We were instructed to write our dreams down. We would start working together as a group to begin stepping into the dreams God had given us. The last thing I wanted to do was to dust off the dreams I had buried deep in my heart so long ago. I got alone with the Lord and had a long chat with Him. God pointed out to me certain places in my life, where I had given up on hope when things got hard. He showed me where I had doubted myself so severely that I had shrunk back, instead of stepping forward into what He had called me into. He showed me where I had hidden behind the pretense of my spirituality, saying I was perfectly content, needing nothing more. In reality, I had built up walls, not daring to hope for anything more, in a vain effort to guard and protect my own heart. God revealed to me that I had failed to trust Him, during those times that it was important for me to trust Him the most. He had grace and mercy on me and invited me once more into the adventure of dreaming big dreams with Him. I accepted.

Since that time, I have begun standing in the place of faith. My faith grows daily. I have learned not to put all my hope into the specifics, the details, or the process. My hope is in the God who knows how to bring about the best possible outcome for my life and is faithful to complete the work He has started in me. When I shifted my focus from what my situation looks like to who my God is, things started to turn around for the better. As I have begun to stand in the place of faith, I have seen specific prayers answered and I have a knowing in my spirit that I have only scratched the surface of what He will do in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Throughout this process, I am learning what it means to persevere. I am learning what it means to continue in determination. I am learning what it means to hang unto hope and to never give up. I am learning to be like Elijah. In the face of the droughts and famines of life, I want to be one who is not driven to despair, but rather driven to my knees. I want to be one who in eager expectancy stays on the look out for the ways God is moving around me. When nothing I can see with my natural senses changes, I want to be one who doesn’t give up, but who simply prays again and again and again, no matter how long it takes.

From where I am standing, I see the small rain cloud. It’s getting closer and closer. I can feel it in my bones. It’s about to rain.

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Trusting Beyond What You Can See

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see…It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called Him to leave Home and go to another land that God would give Him as an inheritance.  He went without knowing where He was going.  And even when He reached the land God promised Him, he lived there by faith-for he was like a foreigner, living in tents.  And so did Isaac and Jacob who inherited the same promise.  Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. (Hebrews 1:11, 8-10)

There is so much that we can learn from the story of Abraham.  God makes Abraham a big promise.  In Genesis 12, God promises Abraham that He will give him land, make him into a great nation and bless all the nations of the world through him, a promise that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Yet at the time God makes this promise, Abraham and his wife Sarah are in what seems like a hopeless situation.  The couple is well past child rearing years.  In fact, Abraham is 75 years old.  In enters God and introduces hope where there was none.

The promise God gives Abraham requires that he trust God beyond what he can see.  God asks Abraham to leave his native country to go a land that God would show him.  Abraham must leave all that he is familiar with.  He must leave his sense of security and predictability.  He must leave the place where he is already well-established to enter unfamiliar territory.  God doesn’t tell Abraham where he is going.  He doesn’t tell him how he will get there.  He doesn’t even tell him when he will get there.  He simply promises to show Abraham the way.

I wish that God’s promises and plans came with a blueprint.  If I had it my way, God would clue me in to every plan He has for my future well in advance.  I would be provided with a step-by-step list of instructions, along with information regarding what to expect and any road bumps I should anticipate.  He would even throw in a few pie charts and a map or two to make things crystal clear.  He doesn’t do that  though.

Why?  Because he wants me to trust Him beyond what I  can see.

Any solid relationship is built on trust.  The same thing goes with our relationship with God.  God wants us to trust Him enough that we will lean on and rely on Him in each stage of this journey.  He desires to lead us on this adventure.  He knows that if he were to outline the journey for us before we took one step, we might be tempted to pick up the map and attempt to make the journey on our own!  God wants us to trust Him with the unknowns, the unfamiliarity, and the uncertainty.  He wants us to trust Him with our fears and our insecurities.

He wants to know…will we trust Him enough to take hold of His hand and take the first step, even when we don’t know where we are going?  He wants us to know He is trustworthy.

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Seek First: An Entry from my Journal

Recently, I have hit a sweet spot in my life. I said this in my last post and I will say it again. I am facing the exact same set of circumstances. The same challenges, the same complications, the same questions, the same job, the same ministry, the same relationships and the same family dynamic. But I am looking at everything through a new lens. It has been a long, grueling and gradual process. There have been many nights I have stayed up late, unable to sleep. There have been several times I have ugly cried and broken down over the phone or during one-on-ones with friends and spiritual advisors. I have been exposed to a lot of ugliness that I have carried in my heart for far too long. God has stood in the muck of my life with me. He has been faithful to hold my hand and has not abandoned me in the process. Although the process is far from complete, I feel like the sun has come out in my life. Where I used to feel despair, I feel hope. Where I used to feel sorrow, I feel joy. Where I used to feel dread, I feel expectation. I am hearing his voice more clearly and I see the small, yet significant, steps He has helped me to take in my personal growth and walk with Him. Looking back over the past several months, I see progress. I am far from perfect and there is so much more work that needs to be done, but I know that God will be faithful to complete what He has begun in me. I have seen His faithfulness in operation, up-close and personal in my life. So much of that has to do with God re-aligning my priorities and causing my vision to come into focus.

The other day I was journaling my reflections on the verse Matthew 6:33, where it says, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Here it is:

Do not lean on your own understanding…I will never be able to gain a sense of understanding by looking at my circumstances, my perceptions of my circumstances, the opinions of others regarding my circumstances, or even the players in my own circumstances. Analyzing the details, over thinking and projecting into the future will bring about a sense of anxiety in me and do little to bring resolution to my questions. Trying to make sense of things and make everything fit into a tidy formula gives me a false sense of control and causes me to act out of my own intuition rather than being led by the Spirit of God.

What then should I do? Seek first…I hear it over and over again resounding in my spirit. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these things will be added unto you. It has become my daily question. What am I seeking first? Is it His Kingdom or all these things? This is the right question to be asking. It is the question that brings all other questions into focus. When I invest my time and my attention in a vain effort to control matters that should be left in God’s hand, I find myself given over to fear, worry, anxiety, even confusion and chaos at times. When I set my gaze on Him and let everything else fade into the background, I am able to rest and be secure, knowing that He is working out all things for my good. It becomes less about figuring it all out and more about hearing His voice every moment. Lord, what step are you asking me to take now? Where would you have me to go in this moment? What would you have me to do?

God is using the situations and circumstances to draw my attention to how much I need Him. He is allowing me to feel things, to experience things and to walk through the fires of life to draw me closer to His heart and to increase my awareness of my dependency on Him. He desires to satisfy every hunger. He longs for me to rest in Him. Day by day He reveals Himself to me as my constant companion. When I understand that His love is all that matters and that nothing can separate me from His love, no situation seems as pressing, daunting or scary.

Today, I choose to lay down my questions. I chose to stop asking for a time even, to seek Him first. My desire is to come to a deeper understanding of Christ, my answer. The Answer.

I mentioned that all of this work that God is doing in my life has been without a change in external circumstances. I believe that God desires to change me first, before He changes my circumstances. I think God knows that before I can walk into all that He has for me, He needs to walk me through a season of preparation and maturation. Otherwise, I would not be able to properly manage or handle the coming season when it arrives. God is teaching me valuable lessons and principles that I will need to rely on to get me through the challenges of the next season. Maybe you, like me, have walked through some challenging times this year. Don’t be discouraged. Nothing that you have experienced will go to waste. God is preparing you to receive the promise. Don’t lose heart in the wait.
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Hope. The Expected End.

Lately, God has been busy doing so much work in my heart. On the outside, my external circumstances don’t look much different. On the inside, God has given me fresh vision and fresh perspective. My joy, faith and expectancy levels are on the rise and growing by the day. God has brought about a restoration of hope in my life.

Hope is crucial for us as lovers of Jesus. Hebrews 6:19 tells us, “[Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it-a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil (AMP).” Recently, I was listening to a sermon by TD Jakes, who I can’t get enough of these days. He had this to say about hope, “Hope is an expected end. It’s not a specific process.” That one simple statement jumped out at me and really caused some things to come into focus in my life. Finally, it clicked.

There is so much that happens in “the process” that at times it can be very difficult to hold on to hope. It never seems like the process has anything to do with the destination or our end goal. Things never go according to plan (or should I say our plans) and it often seems like we are heading in the opposite direction of our dreams. Doors close. Things fall through and sometimes seem to fall apart. Seasons come and go. When things don’t go as expected, we tend to fall into a place of discouragement and we start to think that maybe the promises and the dreams that we are after aren’t really going to happen after all. We think that maybe we didn’t hear God right. We think that maybe it would be safer, wiser even, to downgrade our dreams to shield ourselves from the risk of disappointment. I have definitely been there before.

Recently, God has been showing me areas of my life where I have stopped dreaming. He has showed me places in my heart where, without realizing it, I had given up on hope and bought the lie that the way things are is the way things will always be. God presented me with an invitation to pray risky prayers and dream big dreams again. And I accepted. Once I realized that my hope is in who God is, who He has called me to be and what He has purposed for my life, I became liberated to dream with God once more. We forget sometimes that we already know how this story ends. God will have His way in our lives. He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in us. He will accomplish His purposes and the promises He has spoken about us will come to pass.

The process that we need to go through and the journey we have to take to get us there can be challenging for sure. There will be bumps, delays and detours along the path, but when we go with God, nothing can stop us from reaching His destination in His timing. Nothing can rob from us this hope that we have and get to hold unto. All the things that come up on a daily basis and that attempt to discourage us are merely details. We can’t get so hung up on the details, or the specfics of the process, that we lose sight of hope altogether. We have to face the fact that God’s process never looks anything like we expected it to, but it always leads us to exactly where we need to be. There is so much freedom that comes with choosing to set our focus on what God has said rather than what we can see. A weight is lifted off of us when we choose not to overthink the details and trust God with the outcomes. It takes the pressure off of the current moment by eliminating the idea that in order to see the fulfillment of our dreams, things must look as we expected them to. Hope says that even when things don’t look like I expected them to, God is trustworthy.

Going forward, I am choosing to take my eyes off the specifics of the process, in order to set my gaze on the expected end. Each day I am asking God to help me to have eyes, mind and heart fixated on hope. As Paul writes in Col. 3:1-2, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” I was driving home from a friend’s house last night and Josh Groban belted it out through my radio. I heard the following words and knew God was speaking directly to my heart: “Don’t give up. Because you are loved.” Just knowing that the Father loves me gives me a reason to keep going every day and to never lose heart. Being loved changes everything. Where love is, hope is also.

Stop Worrying about Tomorrow

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:24-34)

This week, this particular passage of the Bible has really stood out to me. I have read it many times before, but this week I was able to understand it in a fresh way. First of all, I have always separated verse 24 from the rest of the passage. Most Bibles break it up. It seems like “no one can serve two masters” is an idea that is disjointed from the rest of the section on worry and anxiety. However, that tiny word “therefore” lets us know that these two ideas are attached. Most of us would probably say that we don’t serve money. However, if we are honest most of us probably worry about our finances from time to time, or perhaps more than from time to time. We invest time and energy into worrying about material things and resources. We worry about our families. We might worry about school or our jobs. We may worry about our relationships or worry about other people. We might be worried about the future. The thing we often don’t realize is that we become a servant to whatever we are worried about. We allow that thing to consume us and we become its slaves. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and feed our fears at the same time. We cannot expect to move forward in the plans that God has for us, while we are allowing ourselves to be Fear’s whipping boy. Recently, I listened to a motivational speech by Les Brown, in which he said, “It is okay to have fears, but it is not okay to let fear have you.” I think that is the key. Too many of us have allowed fear to have us.

As Christians, we always talk about how God provides for all of our needs. Do we really believe it? If we really do believe it, why do we worry so much? I am personally challenged by this. God wants us to know that he has plans for us and purposes for us that extend far beyond the trivial things we worry ourselves with on a day to day basis. His purpose for you goes far beyond that problem that weighs on you. His plans for you are far greater than your dilemma. His promises can’t be deterred by the bumps in the road along the way. God not only knows where we are at, He knows where we are going. He is the only one who knows how to get us there and He is the one that provides for the journey.

In verse 33, God tells us the one thing that he wants us to be focused on: “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Many of us recite this verse, but we are still focused on “all these things” and have missed “Seek first…” Are we seeking him first above all else? Are we allowing him to be our one and only master? Are we consumed with Him only? God wants us to experience the fullness of this adventure with Him. He wants us to experience the thrill of each moment without carrying around the heavy burden of worry. He wants us to experience His joy on the mountaintops and His comfort through the valleys low. He wants us to seek him first, knowing that He’s got everything else covered.

Let’s stop worrying about tomorrow at the expense of missing out on the fullness of today.

On Storm Clouds and Rainbows

For the past couple of days, I have been practicing the art of silence before God. At the weekly small group Bible study I attend, we briefly discussed how important it is that we not only talk to God, but that we also make space in our prayer time to listen to him. Although I have heard this before and even taught this to others, it is not something I am always making an effort to do. But for the past couple of mornings, I have been making space for this. God has been speaking.

Yesterday, as I sat before God, a sudden memory hit me out of the blue. A couple of months ago, somebody had told me that I can’t walk around with a storm cloud over my head. They told me this because they were close enough to me to recognize that I have the tendency to guard myself, anticipating a future day up ahead when things might go wrong and I might get hurt. They even told me that sometimes we can create the very thing that we are afraid of by allowing fear to get the best of us. At times I do ask myself, what good thing am I shutting out of my life because I am too fearful to enjoy the moment?

I realize that dreaming has been a difficult thing for me to do. I started this year in a place of dreaming and hit some road bumps. When the road bumps came, the dreaming stopped. As I sat before the Lord, in my prayer time, I began to vent my frustrations to God. “Lord, I started off this year praying and standing in faith.” Before I could continue, I heard God say to me, “And then you stopped and reverted back into the place of fear.” I was speechless for a moment because I recognized it as truth. I realize that this has been a roadblock in my life. There have been several times in my life when I have stopped dreaming, as soon as I have hit some resistance. I have thrown in the towel on my capacity to believe in my dreams, as soon as I have encountered pain, delay and setbacks. In fact, I am ashamed to admit that many times I have bought the lie that it is better not to dream. If you don’t dream too big, than you can never be too disappointed. I put a spiritual spin on it and have preached to others that I am practicing the art of contentment. Being happy in the present moment with where I am at and what I have. Although contentment and living in the moment are important, what I wasn’t being honest with myself or others about was the fact that I had inwardly given up on my belief that the dream would ever come to pass. I thought that somehow I hadn’t been given permission to dream and that doing so was selfish. God is teaching me that this is simply not the case.

Right now, in my life, I feel like God is inviting me into the adventure of dreaming with Him once more. God is showing me that at times, I have put up walls that I thought were for other people that were essentially blocking him out as well. God revealed to me that somewhere deep in there, I have believed that if I dream too big that he would disappoint me and be insensitive with my heart. Now, I realize that is a heavy thing to say, but in the spirit of transparency, I felt this was an important message to share because I know there is someone out there who is struggling with this as well. There is someone out there who has been crushed by life circumstances and has almost given up hope. There is someone out there who has convinced themselves that their dreams will never come true and it would be better not to have dreamt at all. I believe that God is inviting you into the process of dreaming with Him once more. Let your guard down. Let Him in.

God showed me something about walking around with a storm cloud over your head. Although we can be certain that this life will bring us trouble and hard times, we can’t live in expectation of the storms. We have to anticipate the rainbow. With every storm, God brings the reassurance of his rainbow of promise. If we can live out our daily lives, anticipating the rainbow that each storm brings, I believe that we will able to dance in the puddles, instead of drowning in the rain. The storms we go through in life don’t negate God’s promises to us, just like natural storms don’t negate the presence of the rainbow. In fact, we would never experience the beauty of a rainbow, if we never walked through the difficulty of a storm.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

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