Your Dream. Your Anointing.

 
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Dreams. Goals. Whether big or small, we all have them. We dream of financial freedom, breaking professional records, and traveling the globe to see some of the world’s many wonders. Some give their lives to fight for their dream of social justice, whilst some dream of marriage, children, and enough money to buy a house one day. We need our dreams to keep us motivated. We need our goals to give us direction. We need our dreams to focus us in times of adversity.

And whilst I am an advocate for dreaming, we also need to consider how our dreams can become our own worst enemy. We can get so obsessed with our dreams that we can easily miss out on the bigger picture. 

Unbeknownst to us, our dreams can become our identity. And when faced with letting our dreams go, it seems too hard to let go of all that we have invested and all that we have worked towards. In some ways, our Christian experience has not helped. Many of us have been taught that the spiritual life is instantaneous. Many of us learned to, “name it and claim it” and that we, “possess what we confess”. So we fixate on our dreams. We pray for our dreams. We ask God to give us all we need to make our dreams come true. We assume that the things we pray for, the goals we have set for our lives, are going to be given to us miraculously and quickly. And when our dreams don’t come to pass in the expected timing, we shut down and allow disappointment to drown us.

But there is weight given in the wait. There is wisdom, hope, and truth found as we embrace the process.

Look at Joseph. He may have been one of his dad’s favorite kids, but he was pretty much the runt of the family. In an age where the first-born son was given rank and honor, he was son number eleven, and far from the head of the pecking order. So who could blame him for lauding it over his brothers when he had a dream that he would rule over them? And while he had a dream to rule over his brothers, God had actually anointed him to lead, manage, and administrate a nation.

The road to this God-dream was tough. He was betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and pretty much left to die in prison. But this was not the end for Joseph. When his brothers journeyed to Egypt during the famine, when Joseph’s dream of ruling over his brothers had come to pass, Joseph said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 (NLT) 

Back home in Canaan, I don’t think it ever entered Joseph’s thinking that his dream actually meant that thousands of lives would be spared from famine. I don’t think it had occurred to Joseph that there was a bigger dream, a God-given anointing on his life. And like Joseph, our dreams are never as big as our God-given anointing. Just like Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, God is able, “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so hard to comprehend, but God can take a slave with a criminal record and turn him into second in command of a powerful nation.

But when a dream has been our motivation, our focus, and our inspiration, it can be too hard to it let go. We have made life-altering decisions for those dreams. For me, I gave up my home country and moved to the USA (a country I had not even visited) for my dream of being a TV and film producer. I removed myself from a career in the PR industry to start at the bottom in the TV industry. So when the time came for me to loosen my grip on my dreams, I fought back HARD. Producing was who I was. Producing was all I had sacrificed and worked for. My ability to shape a story, administrate a video shoot, and lead others was my identity.

I read in Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “The Magnolia Story” that Joanna knows what it is to let go of a dream. Before HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”, before creating a home design empire, before becoming one of America’s most famous interior designers, she owned a small home décor store called, “Magnolia”. She loved her little store and found a way to juggle motherhood and her dreams. But after had her first two children, she felt a nudge from God to shut her store to focus on her family. At first she resisted, but it wasn’t long until she relented and she loosened her grip on her company, “Magnolia”.  

Her story whispers hope to me. The once small store owner now owns one of the biggest home design brands in the USA. Their “Magnolia” empire attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors to Waco, TX and creates millions of dollars. Their show, “Fixer Upper” was one of the most successful on HGTV. And now they are launching their own channel! They’ve published multiple books, opened a big store, managed a successful real estate company, the list goes on and on because Magnolia is HUGE! 

Like Joseph, Joanna Gaines let go. She discovered that God’s dreams, God’s anointing for her was so much bigger than she could have asked or imagined. But the only way to get there was to loosen her grip and trust that as she obeyed God, everything would be OK. 

Sometimes we are holding on so tight that we are choking our destiny. Sometimes we have to get out of the way of ourselves. Sometimes we have to let go of our expectations, hard work, and dreams in order to move forward. My prayer today is that we follow Joseph and Joanna Gaines’ example. May we have the strength to lay down our dreams, to let go of the trajectory of our goals, and follow the One who wants to give us more than we ask or imagine.

Hospitality or Entertainment?

 
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Don’t you just love it when you find a book that seems to be written just for you? Well, I’ve found MY book. Shauna Niequest’s, “Bread and Wine” literally changed my life. No lie! In 2013, when the book was newly released, I read the words Niequest penned and I felt like someone had finally put language to my love of food and people. She described how hospitality is not simply filling peoples bellies but also filling their souls, and that when we gather around a table, we are truly encountering a Divine exchange. I am definitely a “table person”. At the table we take some of my greatest loves - food, wine, and people. Sharing a dinner in a restaurant is lovely, but nothing beats a home cooked meal, shared over a family dinner table. There’s just something so rich, so loving, so intimate about the whole experience.

But I have been recently thinking about the difference between opening my home to entertain others, and opening my home to offer hospitality. I must confess, as much as I love to welcome people around my table, it’s all too easy to fall into entertainment. Dictionary.com defines entertainment as, “an act, production, that entertains; a diversion; an amusement”. You see, entertainment implies that we are putting on a performance for others. Sure, as you entertain, your guests may laugh, they might forget their troubles for a few hours, but the whole experience is something different when we practice hospitality. Hospitality makes space for people. Hospitality does not offer perfection. Hospitality is not about impressing people with your beautiful house, Top Chef culinary skills, or witty conversation, and I think that can be a major hurdle for us to overcome.

In life, it’s more convenient to entertain people rather than invite them into your home and heart. It’s much easier to perform a role, fulfill a function, and put on a mask than it is to let people see your imperfections, weaknesses, or struggles. As much as a lifestyle of vulnerability and authenticity seems appealing, the reality is that letting people close to seeing the real you is daunting.

And I am not implying that hospitality looks like a perpetual episode of Dr. Phil where we all spill our guts. Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly (another GREAT book) that, “…over sharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.” (Pg 159). Hospitality is about creating space for people’s hearts, as well as their bellies. It’s about giving space for connection and cultivating trust.

Jesus was the most hospitable of humans. He could often be found in people’s homes, eating food and connecting heart-to-heart. He loved a good party and happily turned water into wine. And like I mentioned recently, we only have to look at John 11 (when Jesus comes to comfort Mary and Martha after the death of their brother, Lazarus) to see how hearts are more important to Jesus than anything else. Before He performed a miracle, before He changed the situation, Jesus approached both Mary and Martha. He talked with them. He wept with them. Jesus made space in His heart to love people, not just entertain, pacify, or distract them. And like Jesus, our goal should be connecting with people’s hearts, not wowing them or impressing them.

In the season of life I am in, hospitality has been a struggle for me. I am a stay-at-home mum with two kids under two, a third on the way, and a household filled with two dogs and a ridiculous cat.  If I am inviting people in to my home for dinner, guests will be greeted by dog hair, a slew of toys, and a very basic Keurig k-cup coffee. And if I am inviting people into my heart, people will see an exhausted mother who is trying to manage a household on one income, and with very, very limited time to spare. 

But I am learning that my community is worth the real me. I am learning that they don’t need some plastic version of me. They don’t need a millionaire Sarah who has her house professionally cleaned on a daily basis, or who serves only fancy food and drink. My people need the real me as much as I need the real them. My heart yearns for true connection rather than being entertained or pacified. Like Mary and Martha, I am learning that it’s not about Jesus changing the situation, but it’s about letting my heart be heard as well as hearing the hearts of others.

So today, let’s practice hospitality, not entertainment. Let’s create space in our hearts and homes where we can truly connect, trust, and engage. Be vulnerable. Let’s not try to wow people with our skills, but love them with an open heart. Let’s welcome them, not perform for them. It’s not perfect but it’s beautiful! 

 

Nothing Missing Nothing Lacking

It’s kinda cute when you watch those videos on YouTube of kids talking about what they want to be when they grow up. If you would have asked a five-year-old me, my profession of choice ranged from doctor to princess (married to Princes William or Harry of course). But our ambitions soon evolve from cute dreams to real-life goals. We figure out our strengths and weaknesses. I struggled with science in school and after confusing the word feces and fetus I finally realized my medical ambitions were over! We make career goals, which ebb and flow with our personal goals. We want to find our soul mate, whilst having financial stability and a fulfilling career. Maybe add a nice house, a good car, some little kiddos, and a strong community around us.

But many of us struggle to keep up with the timeline of our dreams. By the time we hit our late twenties and then into our thirties and forties, some are stuck in dead end jobs, some are longing for marriage, and others are dealing with bankruptcy. It’s so easy to feel like we are in lack and that our lives look nothing like what we had hoped or imagined.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes about the concept of “scarcity”. She describes how we live in a culture of “never enough”. From the moment we wake up in the morning, we immediately tell ourselves that we did not get enough sleep, which soon slips into believing that we do not have enough time to get things done. “Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking.” (Page 26)

Brene is right – scarcity is so embedded into our thinking that it is a discipline to consider that we are actually living in success and plenty.

2 Peter 1:3 says that God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” The Bible is not saying that we are in lack, but in fact God has given us everything we need for life (money, skills, resources, housing, food, toys for the kids etc.) and godliness (the spiritual stuff so we can actually have a relationship with God and grow as spiritual beings). Everything. Nothing missing. Nothing lacking. We have everything we need.

And please note, the Bible is not saying that God has given us all we need to keep up with the Jones’, or even our projected life-plan. Yes, the Jones’ seem to have their life on track with their dreams; they have the money, the career, and the seemingly well-behaved kids, but maybe it’s time to let go of the expectations we have put on ourselves? For the sake of our sanity, maybe we need to let go of the time-sensitive agenda and be content with our little houses, or our frugal budgets that mean we can’t always buy organic produce? Maybe it’s time to surrender the dreams of annual family vacations and be happy with taking day trips to the beach or the mountains, and packing homemade sandwiches?

And as we shift our perspective, may we see that a lack of money, relationships, or career doesn’t mean we have failed or that we are inferior to others. Sometimes the seasons of tight finances, tough work environments, or pressured family relationships are about us recalibrating our hearts. It’s not that we deny the lack, but we surrender the shortfalls and choose to believe that our story is not over. We have been given everything we need to get through today and the next season is not too far away

So today, my prayer for us all surrender scarcity and embrace contentment. Our current situations are not forever. As we press forward, our lives will look oh so different in one year, five years, and ten years. Let us not look at what others are doing, let us not compare. Let us forgo our own expectations of our lives and let us look at the good, cherish the gifts, and let go of the pressure to have more. Let’s be a people who engage our hearts in the present rather than self-medicate on fantasies of what the future could bring. 

May we see that God has given us all we need for life and godliness! But may we also have the grace to accept that it might not be enough to keep up with the Jones’, or even our own expectations.

A Longing Fulfilled

I talk to a lot of people who would describe themselves as being in a time of “waiting”. It can be a hard season, where you struggle to accept the longings of your heart and it’s too easy to fall into comparison and disappointment. Some people are waiting for their bodies to be healed, some are waiting to meet their spouse, some are waiting to be free from the label ‘infertile’, some are waiting for family drama to subside, while some are waiting for their finances to increase. The list is endless but the frustration in that time is real. 

This season is not unfamiliar territory for me. I didn’t get married until I was 32 (and I wanted to marry from the moment I was born!!). After that, my husband and I walked through two years of recurrent miscarriages. And on top of that, my husband’s career experienced many bumps in the road! No matter what I was “waiting” for, whether marriage, children, or financial stability, people would try and encourage me to not give up on God. I was confused, disheartened, and sometimes angry. And a common piece of advice I’d receive was, “God will give you what you want when you’re not looking for it”. These people were well meaning, but instead of feeling encouraged or empowered, I felt like their words punished me for having dreams and heart’s desires.  

I understand that for some, their heart’s desires become an obsession. But a big indicator of the health of dreams is how they are affecting our behavior. Are you stabbing coworkers in the back to climb the corporate ladder? Are you embezzling money to build your business? Are you abandoning your own beliefs in order to find or keep a date? If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, then you can be confident that you are not dominated by your heart’s desires. Your prayers, your wants are not destroying you – in fact they may have been given to you by God so that He can lead you in the path that He has for you! Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). This is incredibly practical advice! He’s saying that as long as you are putting God first (His values, His love for you, His love for others), everything will be given to you. Heck, HE WANTS TO GIVE IT TO YOU! 

In the book of Proverbs, it is written, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Hmmm…. That’s interesting. It doesn’t say, “Stop desiring, stop hoping, stop longing, because only then can you be given what you want.” No! The Bible actually acknowledges that delayed hope, delayed dreams make your heart suffer. BUT WHEN IT COMES, IT WILL BE A TREE OF LIFE. 

My husband loves trees. He always notices them wherever we go. Whilst I am glued to the GPS on my iPhone, he’s taking in the clouds in the sky and the trees that surround us. He often tells me that trees are a firm part of our landscape. Trees don’t just come and go like little plants, they grow over years and decades, and remain for centuries. And trees don’t need much care. They soak up the sun, absorb the rain, and do what they do during all four seasons. And they are a shelter. You can hide under a tree and find shade. I should probably pay more attention because my husband’s right - trees are awesome!

And we rarely consider how long it takes to grow a tree. They slowly grow roots into the earth and with equal speed, grow upwards. It takes decades for a tree to be established. And the answers to our prayers can often come at the same pace.  

But despite their tarried arrival, when our heart’s desires arrive, the things we have longed for, they will be a longstanding shelter and shade in our lives. They won’t be high-maintenance areas of our lives that constantly need tending. Our heart’s desires will be a place of rest, a place of peace. They will be a tree of life! 

So don’t fight your dreams. Stop feeling guilty that you want marriage, children, a career, family reconciliation, or financial gain. These are all good things. Just seek God first and let everything else be added, because when they come, they will be a tree of life.

The Weight In The Wait

There’s an epidemic sweeping across the homes of America. As I spend my time talking with people, there are many who struggle with the same issue. 

Invisibility. Many of us feel unseen. Many of us feel like we are consumed in the grind of the day, whether it’s raising little kids, building a career, or caring for elderly family. We are caught in an avalanche of tasks, paying bills, and satisfying needy people, and it seems like “self-care” is a million miles away. 

And social media only tells us how much other people have got their stuff together, how friends are killing their career goals, and how others are spending cash that can only be sourced from some secret benefactor. Seriously. We look at others and it’s too easy to slip down a spiral of self-criticism, comparison, and even regret. We start to second-guess the choices we have made and we wonder why we are so tired, so drained, and so depleted. And it feels like no one else notices. Or at least, you are the lone sailor on the ship of obscurity. 

In the midst of it all, God has something to say to our loneliness and exhaustion. He doesn’t say we have missed it. He doesn’t say we should regret the choices we have made. In fact He promises to make all things beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God doesn’t say that we are not enough; He says we have everything we need for everyday life and spirituality (2 Peter 1:3). He says He sees us, He knows us, and He values us (Psalm 139). 

But it doesn't feel like that. We feel forgotten. We feel far away from our dreams. We feel stuck in a life full of responsibilities and wonder if we will ever see our prayers answered. 

Like most of America, I have been enthralled by the rise of Michael Ketterer. If you have not heard of him, he’s a worship leader with United Pursuit who recently tried out for America’s Got Talent. He’s struck gold and the video of his audition has been viewed over 12 million times on YouTube (if you’ve not seen it, give it a quick Google). We all know worship leaders who have longed, or are still longing to be “discovered”. They know they have skills and abilities and yet they feel unseen to the rest of the world. But Michael Ketterer didn’t just sit and wait to be discovered. He worked faithfully as a Pediatric nurse. He served kids in his city and provided for his family. He adopted 5 children from the foster care system. He got on with the day-to-day of life and loved his family well. 

And when Michael walked on that America’s Got Talent stage to share his song and his story, America listened. There was weight. As Simon Cowell said, there was something special about him.

Look at Candace Payne, the Chewbacca-Mask Mom. As a young twenty-something, she was building a career as a comedian. But she realized her jokes were cynical about the church. She knew that if she continued to walk down the comedy path, she wasn’t going to give glory to God, but in fact dishonor Him. So she gave it up. Then she married and had kids, and they became her world. She led worship in her church. She was not working towards a book deal or a predominant career. Then one day, she took some things back to Kohl’s and picked up a Chewbacca mask in the clearance section. With excitement, she ran back to her car and made a quick Facebook Live video showing off the mask. Her video was so popular, that the unknown housewife broke Facebook! Within a week, her Chewbacca mask video had been viewed 140 million times, making it most viewed Facebook Live video of all time. Candace now has a flourishing career as an author and comedian. She has book deals, live tours, and an insane number of followers on social media. 

Neither of these people were on a track for fame or success. They were loving and serving the people right in front of them. They were working hard to provide. They were giving to people. And when the time was right, they were propelled towards their dreams.

Contrary to what we hear in our dog-eat-dog world, WEIGHT is given in the WAIT.  

Many of us have been given gifts and anointings from heaven. Some are musicians, some are business leaders, some are Christian leaders. But we can get disheartened as the minutia of life overwhelms us. Your kids need their diapers changed. Your boss has brought your deadline forward. An elderly neighbor needs help with some errands. 

And the dreams that once sparked inside our hearts seem to fizzle out. 

King David was anointed king but it took another twenty years for him to be appointed king. And during those years, he was being fashioned into a person of compassion, humility, and emotional freedom. He had his flaws, but he was a king who went down in history as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). 

But there have been too many servants of God who have been crushed by their anointings. We know who they are. We read the headlines and see their falls from grace. Like King Saul, David’s predecessor, their own insecurities triumphed over their anointings. Some embezzled money, some abused, whilst others slept around. Their gifts crushed them.

But in the wait, as your weight grows, you will not be crushed by your anointing. Instead, your anointing will serve you as you are appointed. Your spirit, soul, and body will work in synergy rather than in opposition to one another.

So today, know you are seen. Know you are loved. Know you are heard. Know that God wants you to thrive and not be crushed. Know that your wait is giving space for weight.

  

 

Complaining, moaning, and having a good grumble (Promises Part 4)

Many if us say we want to live with a real and honest faith. We say we are tired of the “fake it till you make it” mentality, so we can often pendulum into extreme negativity. We assume that by venting our frustrations we are living authentically. 

However, I have found that real and honest truth is not found in the midst of my circumstances. My circumstances often speak of my lack, insecurities, and fears. Everything on earth will chop and change. My emotions change. My bank balance fluctuates. My relationships ebb and flow. But God is my constant. God is faithful. My spiritual perspective speaks of hope, victory, and freedom.

So there’s something powerful about lifting our eyes up to God. There’s something life changing about tuning into God rather than allowing the wavelength of our circumstances to scream out. 

In the early chapters of Joshua we read the story of Jericho. This was the first city that the Hebrews were taking in their Promised Land. After centuries of slavery, and then decades of wondering in the desert, finally the Promise of God was here! 

But they still had to fight for the land. There was still going to be an invasion. There was still going to be battle. And as much as the Canaanites of Jericho were melting in fear (Joshua 2:24), there was still a risk that the Hebrews would lose. I mean, after all, they were a people accustomed to slavery and the wilderness. Victory would have been unusual.  

But instead of relying on their past behaviors, like stewing in disappointment, complaining, or building idols, the Hebrews did something unique; they tuned into God’s voice, listened to what He said, and they marched around the city in silence six times before raising their voices in a cry of victory. Instead of moaning, instead of succumbing to pessimism, instead of losing heart, the Hebrews obeyed God’s seemingly strange instruction to take the land. They decided to trust God. They took courage and chose to believe that God was leading them and that He was not going to give them over to defeat. 

And on the seventh day, the walls came toppling down and Jericho was won.

How many of us can learn from the Hebrews example? How many of us need to align our hearts with the Truth that God will never leave us or forsake us? How many of us need to overcome our own insecurities and listen to what God is leading us to do? How many of us need to raise our voice in praise and thanksgiving, rather than moaning and complaining?

As much as grumbling feels good, it hinders us from advancing forward. Trust and praise are keys to unlocking victory but negativity keeps us on an endless road of defeat. Our complaining prolongs God’s Promises but our praise releases His victory.

In the midst of the storm, we need to acknowledge who God is. We need to speak it out. We need to sing worship songs and lift our eyes to Jesus.  It’s not faking it because we are acknowledging the truth of who He is and who He has made us to be. 

So lift up your eyes. Look to the One who fights for you and is changing you from glory to glory. Look to the One who loves and empowers you. And watch as the walls that surround your Promise come tumbling down. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Direction (Promises Part 3)

I’m sure I’m not alone if I say I often feel like I am walking along the road less travelled. And sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let go of the plan I have set out for my life and allow God to navigate me. When I see what I think is the quickest way to get to my promises, surrendering to Him is the last thing I want to do. 

We all get tired of the wait. We all get frustrated, exhausted, and disappointed. We want results and we want them right now!

But what if God is leading us on a safer road? Rather than exposing us to disaster, what if this road protects us from attack or intimidation? What if God knows the things that will terrify us and He wants to shelter us? What if this crazy long path we are currently treading is actually the most successful road to our dreams?

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NOT WHAT WE EXPECT - PROMISES (PART 2)

When it comes to our ‘promises’, we don’t expect to have to work hard or fight. Whether spirit, soul, or body, we think God has assured us that He is giving something to us, and therefore it’s going to be easy. And then the tension rises. We realize we are going to have to fight for our marriages, our families, and our careers. We see that the desires of our hearts don’t just fall into our laps, but there are ‘giants’ in the way. Then we crumble. We question ourselves and doubt God. We don’t want to fight. We don’t want to have to work for it. And it’s not because we are lazy, but it’s because we FEAR.

 

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