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.

Quiet, Trust, and Strength

 
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Happy New Year! I know I am 30 days late, but I’ve not really been online much. January is often a month of fasting or abstaining. Some people cut out meat, some hit the Keto train, while others stop drinking alcohol. As a pregnant woman who is juggling a couple of autoimmune issues, my diet is already all over the place. And so I chose a fast of a different kind. I realized my heart was all over the place. I needed to tune out the loud noises of expectations, false responsibilities, and external pressures. 

 So I decided to cut out social media. No Instagram. No Facebook. No Twitter. Nothing. I needed to quiet my heart, focus on my family, and let go. I can spend hours hooked to my iPhone, starring into an abyss of other people’s profiles, posts, and photographs. I may say I am trying to connect with people, but the truth is that I look at people’s lives and I am often left feeling pretty inadequate. The whispers of insecurity turn into raging screams and let’s be real – I am not alone. Social media is a fantastic way to connect and communicate. But it can also be something that leads to very loud noises of rejection, comparison, and insecurity. 

Within our culture, we find it easier to keep up with the Jones’ than to stop, breathe, and be quiet. Many of us find ourselves on a hamster wheel of family, career, and spirituality, and before we know it, we are caught in a trap of exhaustion. We become burned out and we are left feeling disappointed and discouraged. 

 Isaiah 30:15 says, “in quietness and trust is your strength”. Quiet. According to the Bible, strength can be found, not in ramping up your to-do list, but in quiet. And in our culture, where we’re told that we can have it all, and comparison has become the norm, it takes an active decision and a strong will to find ‘quiet’. 

And so January was a month of quiet for me. Instead of monotonous Facebook scrolling, it was a month of playing with my kids and only surfing the Internet for baby names for our son. It was a month of searching Pinterest for new recipes for my family (gluten-free, dairy-free, and toddler-friendly is not the easiest food category) and calling or texting my loved ones directly. And my heart was stilled. I didn’t miss out on much. I didn’t see the party I wasn’t invited to, or the new car that I couldn’t afford. My heart was focused on the good in my life and I found quiet.  

And what about you? What’s happening in your heart? What will help you silence the loud noises of external pressures, false responsibilities, and insecure comparisons?  

It’s good to stop and be quiet. It’s healthy to listen. I was nervous about losing contact with some people, but it was actually encouraging to unplug and focus. And without realizing it, contentment and trust came to me, and the loud noises of lack, inadequacy, and insecurity faded away. 

My New Year wish for you all is that your 2019 may be filled with peace, joy, and your heart’s desires. May this be a year where we listen to what Henri Nouwen called “the inner voice of Love”. May our confidence increase and our love for others grow.

It's OK to not be OK

Unless I missed it, the song “Everything Is Awesome” from the LEGO movie is no where to be found in scripture. In fact, look at the Psalms and you will read the songs and prayers of a man who knew suffering. King David knew what it was to be misunderstood, betrayed, and left mentally exhausted. And yet, most of the time, put a Christian in a painful situation, and nine times out of ten they will slap a smile on their face and recite a ridiculous number of platitudes. “I’m too blessed to be stressed” or “God’s got me. I’ll be OK” to name but a few.

Funny thing is, nowhere in the bible do we see people speaking in such clichés. Jesus Himself demonstrated that when people were hurting, He hurt too. When Lazarus had died, He didn’t walk in and say, “Hey guys! I’m here. Put a smile on your face and be grateful. I’m about to do something awesome!” No. He talked with Martha and Mary. He heard their hearts. He wept. He felt the pain of those He loved and He grieved (John 11:35).

This has been a hard week. And whilst I seek to encourage people, I have to be honest. The trenches of life, motherhood, and everything in between have been overwhelming. We all have bad days. Sometimes there are bad weeks, months, and even years and it feels like a struggle to stay positive. There are times in our lives when we feel like we are fighting one bad situation after another. And if you are like me, we feel guilty that we are feeling sad, because as a Christian, we should be joyful at all times, right?

But in John 11, Jesus showed us that He prioritized a person’s heart over a result. Before He performed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, He felt with, grieved with, and comforted those in pain.  In another passage of scripture, Jesus also said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). How can you be comforted if you don’t mourn? How can you experience the true impact of the comfort of the Holy Spirit whilst you are masking your pain?

The western Church has become so very fixated with results. Some churches want results seen in healing miracles. Other churches want results in numbers of converts and church growth. And whilst it’s easy to criticize church leaders for thinking about the numbers, we all live our lives looking for results. We have specific ‘results’ that we are asking God for and we ask for them everyday. Have my prayers been answered yet? Do I have the promotion that I have been asking God for? Has that family drama been resolved? Do I have the money to buy a new car? Why am I not married yet? Is the doctor going to call me and tell me that I am healed? Please God, let me go full-term and not miscarry another baby.

And whilst praying for these things is a good thing, becoming fixated on the ‘result’ can be so destructive to our hearts. When circumstances don’t change in accordance with our timeline, disappointment and resentment seeps into our hearts. Before we know it, we are mad at God for forgetting about us but we are simultaneously trying to keep a smile on our faces. 

But like we saw with Lazarus, He walked up to Mary and Martha and loved them BEFORE He gave them a ‘result’. He mourned with them, cried with them, and let them know that He was present. 

So today, whatever you are dealing with, whatever result you are not seeing, whatever grief is gripping your heart, put down the mask and let your heart be seen. Know that your God loves you more than your circumstance. As scripture shows, your pain matters. It’s OK to be in pain. It’s not a sin to grieve. But before He performs a miracle, maybe He wants to come close and comfort you? Maybe He wants to grieve with you and let you know that He is with you? 

It’s OK to not be OK, just keep your heart open to God and let Him come close to you.

One Tiny Step Is All It Takes

Within the Church, the word ‘faith’ is thrown around pretty often. We are told to have faith for provision when we are facing financial pressures. We need faith to be healed when our Oncologist calls with bad news. We need faith that our families will be reconciled after years of brokenness. 

And maybe it’s just me, but I feel this weight of responsibility that if I don’t have faith, then my prayers are not going to be answered. People tell you to have faith because that pleases God (Hebrew 11:6), but how do you have faith when, quite frankly, you’re struggling to trust God?

There are times in our faith journeys when we are holding on to a thread of hope that God is going to answer us. We live in such a broken world surrounded by rejection, death, and disappointment that it can become difficult to believe God will answer us. Honestly, it can get exhausting to muster up any ounce of faith.

I was recently reading Hebrews 11, the chapter of the bible that explores the faith of the Old Testament heroes. Noah had faith to be ridiculed and yet build an ark (v7), Abraham had faith to leave his home (v8), Sarah had faith to birth Isaac when she was in her nineties (v11), and Moses had faith to cross the Red Sea (v29). As you study the lives of these people, they all had moments of disbelief and struggle, but as I read this passage, I initially felt pressure to have some kind of colossal faith. I mean, their faith must have been MASSIVE, like the size of an ocean, to see all that they saw in their lives. And you know what, sometimes my faith seems to be more like the size of a small puddle.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

Hmmmm, just the faith of a mustard seed? This seems like a stark contrast to what we read in Hebrews 11 because I assume that Noah, Abraham, and Moses had a lot more faith than me!

Matthew 25 gives us another perspective on faith. You may be familiar with the story - Jesus describes three different people who were given a certain number of ‘talents’ by their boss before he went on a journey. One was given five talents, another two talents, and another was given one talent. The five-talent guy went away, took a risk, invested his talents, and made another five talents. Likewise, the two-talent guy went away, took a risk, invested his talents, and made another two talents. But the one-talent guy played it safe, and just buried his talent to make sure he wouldn’t lose what little he had. The first two guys were rewarded and described as, “good and faithful”, but the one-talent guy, who said he was afraid that he would lose his one talent, was punished for being wicked and lazy.

In our messed-up world, too often we behave like the one-talent guy. It’s not that we feel like we are being lazy, but we are paralyzed into self-preservation. To step out, to be vulnerable, to have faith seems too risky. So we bury all that we have in order to play it safe. You were fired, so why have faith that you will have another fulfilling job? Your parents divorced when you were a child, so why trust that God will give to you a faithful spouse? You miscarried multiple children, so why risk believing you can be a mum when you are still grieving the loss of your babies?

As tempting as it is to compare ourselves to spiritual greats, the truth is that God honors our small steps of faith. Yes, Noah, Abraham, and Moses accomplished huge things, but they also wrestled with their own fears. These heroes kept putting one foot in front of another and did not stop trusting God. And God came through for them because He honored that mustard seed faith that seemed almost insignificant. 

God is pleased when we step out just a tiny bit. And for each one of us, the step looks oh so different. For some who have lost jobs, sending out resumes feels like you are baring your soul for all to see. For those feeling lonely and rejected, Facebooking an acquaintance and inviting them for coffee is terrifying. Your step, your faith will be manifested in an unique way, but never discount the courage it has taken for you to get out of your comfort zone and dare to believe that God will come through for you.

You’ve got what it takes. You have the faith of [insert your name here]. And when you choose to step out, when you choose to believe God over your fears, your doubts, and insecurities, you will see that you can move mountains. It just takes one tiny step.