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! 

 

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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