Tag Archives: Dreams

Pause, Young Wannabe-Leader, Pause

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“I had coffee with a guy this week who just graduated college and wanted to know how he could prepare himself for being in ministry and becoming a better leader. He could feel the tension between the raw gifts and ambitions God had given him to lead and how he should refine them. The derailment of many young leaders is impatience, a premature demand to take the reins before the character or gifts are ready.”

I read this opening paragraph in an article “What’s Your Next Move, Young Leader?” on line last week.  The article continues with 5-6 points of advice that I myself have given young people who are eager to find what God has planned for their lives.  However, I would like to revise my advice from all those years ago.

Today if this young person who just graduated from college were sitting across from me, sipping coffee and asking for advice; I would say something quite different.  I would say “Pause.”  How can you prepare yourself for ministry and becoming a leader?  Pause.  How about 40 days in the wilderness fasting.  How about 40 YEARS in the wilderness leading stupid sheep.  How about loads of silence, and how about a crushing sense of being forgotten in a prison cell.  How about being a servant when God has given you the vision of being a great leader.

“Pause your life.”  You aren’t ready to begin yet.

Young people are always eager for their purpose to appear and for their life to start having meaning.  I remember I was eager at that age too.  “Just tell me what I’m going to do and I’ll be happy to get on with it!”  was how I thought back then.  But over and over in the Bible we see God preparing men for greatness by isolating them and breaking them down FIRST.  Those are steps that NO college graduate wants to take.

Think about it.  David didn’t become King over night.  He spent years running for his life from a jealous King Saul.  Moses was super eager to begin leading the Israelites.  So eager, in fact, that he jumped the gun and killed a guy.  Then he spent the next 40 years hiding on the back side of the desert with a bunch of sheep.  Joseph had dreams and visions of his future greatness at a very early age.  But when his brothers sold him into slavery and his slave master threw him in jail, I’m sure Joseph wondered if his dreams would ever come true.  Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his public ministry.  But there were 30 years behind those 40 days!

God plants the seeds of greatness in Isolation.  Young Wannabe-Leader, get alone with God.  Let God isolate you and break you open before he impregnates your heart with vision.  In the quiet, in the dark, all alone a seed dies in the dirt before it grows up into the sunshine.

My advice for young leaders is to Pause before you rush out into the spotlight with your ears full of your own voice, and your eyes full of your own visions, and your mind full of your own ideas.  Pause.  Wait on God.  Wait a long, long time if you have to.  Great men of God are made in isolation.

Before you break your heart

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Heart-BrokenSometimes when the Lord speaks to me, it is in the same tone that I speak to my children.  I know God is treating me like his child, and I need to respond to him as my Heavenly Father.

This last week I sent Teacher Christmas presents to school with all my kids.  My Kindergartener has two teachers, an English teacher in the morning and a Spanish teacher in the afternoon (it’s a bilingual school).  In each gift bag, I packed a cute mug, hot chocolate mix, chocolate covered coffee beans, and a plate of home-made Christmas cookies.  My little one was so excited!  She’s 5 years old, so of course she wanted to carry her own presents to her teachers.  But she’s also short, so for the entire walk from the car to the classroom I was coaching Lulu in my most patient parental voice.  “Pick up your bags, don’t drag them.  Don’t clink your bags on the ground or you’ll break the cups.  Do you want me to carry those for you?  Be careful.  Lift them higher honey.”  Every 2 seconds it was a new instruction.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that this child is an insurance claim waiting to happen.  She is a natural disaster on two feet.  I have FEMA’s emergency number on speed dial.  She’s not malicious or naughty (usually) but she is high-spirited and has inherited her mother’s gracelessness.  So I knew it was a risk to let her carry her presents herself.  Sure enough, my fears proved to be foresight.

The minute she saw her little friend Anika she went running to hug her with a gift bag in each hand.  The arms swung around her little buddy and the bags smashed together behind Anika’s back!  It was all I could do to surpress the disappointed tone in my voice.  I then had to explain to her teachers that she just got too excited and forgot to be careful.  Sorry, here’s your broken coffee cups.  A little Super Glue should do the trick.  I felt so bad, but there was nothing more I could do as a parent to prevent her from breaking the cups aside from carrying them myself.   If she was going to carry them, it was a certainty that she was going to break them.

So last night I had a moment with God when he spoke to me like I was speaking to Lucy on that day.  He said to me in a Fatherly tone, “Give me your heart to hold for you.  Give me your heart before you break it.”  I set my heart on things that are unrealistic, dreams that will never become reality.  I invest my heart in ideas or plans or day dreams or wishes and then I am disappointed when my ideas fall flat.  Father God asked me to give him my heart for safe keeping.  If I were to hold on to it, I would certainly break it.  I have high expectations.  I am constantly getting my hopes up and then they come crashing down to the ground like Lulu’s Christmas cups.  I get all excited and smash my heart to bits.  God says, “Child, let me hold that for you before you break it.”

Now the question is, will I trust him?  Do I really believe that he knows better than I do what is good for me and what is wrong for me?  Am I going to surrender my heart, my dreams and expectations to him?  Am I going to trust my Father with my heart?

Here’s a promise I can trust when I am looking for how to guard my heart.  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

The Death of a Dream

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Americans idolize their dreams.  We are a nation of big dreamers.  We applaud those who do great things.  We reward those who succeed.  We equate the death of a dream with failure.

But what if the death of a dream is part of the process that God wants to take you through.  What if it is ultimately for your good.  What if God must empty your hands before He can fill them with what He wants to give you.  That sounds painful.  That sounds suspiciously like an excuse for failure.  So is there a precedent for this in the Bible?  Is this something that God actually DOES?

Let’s ask Abraham.  No doubt, Abraham and his wife Sarah longed deeply for children.  They dreamed of the pitter patter of little feet on the tent floor.  Maybe Sarah spent the long evenings knitting little hats and booties for her dream child.  When it looked like it was too late for babies, the biological clock has ticked its last, God appeared and breathed life into the dead dream with a promise.  “You WILL have a son and I will bless the whole world through your ancestors.”

They had waited a long time for a baby, and now they waited again.  After many years of sighing and fretting, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Abraham took Sarah’s servant Haagar as a second wife in order to have a child.  They DID have a child, but this was not God’s promised son.  They must continue to wait for another 13 years.  The dream died again.  Then at the age of 99, the dream was once again revived when Sarah became pregnant finally!  The miracle child was finally coming!  The promise was finally realized.

But the dream was to die again.  Did Abraham begin to idolize his son?  This promised child, this long awaited joy meant so very much to his parents.  God came to Abraham again, and asked him to lay the dream down once more, to sacrifice his son as an act of devotion to God.  “But God, you GAVE me this dream!  How can you ask me to let it die?”  He might have asked.  But no, Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could revive the dream again.  All this dying of dreams had taught him that God can be trusted when it looks like it’s all over.  God could bring his son back to life after he had been sacrificed to the Lord.  After all, child sacrifice was part of the religion of the pagans who lived all around Abraham.  “So who is to say that this God who makes wild promises and then lets the dream die won’t ask a crazy thing of me as well,” he might have reasoned.

But at the final moment, before the physical death of his son and the final death of the dream, God intervened once again.  The test was passed.  The idolization was dead and true devotion to God was all that remained.  The purification of the dream had occurred.  Abraham’s faith was proven and God was satisfied.

What dream are you holding tightly to?  Has it become an idol to you?  God just might ask you to lay that dream down or out right kill that dream in order to empty your hands.  You can not receive from the Lord if your hands are already full.  What dream of yours needs to die?

 

Hindsight… does this dream make my butt look big?

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Leap of Faith

“Staring in the water like Aesop’s foolish dog

Can’t help but reflect on what is was I almost lost

What I thought I wanted, what I got instead

Leaves me broken and grateful.”

~Sara Groves, What I thought I wanted

I had a dream of living in Europe.  I studied 4 years of French.  I seriously thought God was going to call me to Europe as a missionary.  Europe suits me, and I have the wardrobe for it already!  I love the history, the architecture, the art, the cool youth culture.  I just love Europe.  I kept waiting for the Call from the Lord.  It never came.

When I was 17 I was supposed to be attending my high school graduation.  Instead I was spending a month in Europe with my family on a sort of family missions trip.  We spent 3 weeks in Brussels, Belgium working with missionary friends and then tacked on a week in Paris just for family vacation.  I never considered missing my graduation ceremony to be a hardship in the light of Paris!  I was born for that city!

While we were in Belgium we toured Continental Bible College, where I considered studying for at least a year.  As I walked through the buildings with the tour guide, I prayed in my heart.  I asked God, “Well, what do you think?” and clear as the voice of the tour guide I heard God say to me, “He’s not here.”  I knew immediately that he meant my future husband.  I said, “I didn’t ask you about that,” and we didn’t talk about it again.  I went home and applied to North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, my hometown.  I met Josh a few months later and two years later we got married.  What I thought I wanted pales in comparison with what I got instead.

Fast forward to 2003.  We were on a missions trip with our youth group kids.  We knew this would be our last trip.  We had already felt God starting to stir our hearts, change was on the horizon.  But we didn’t know what it was going to look like.  Sitting on a bench on the campus of the University of Mexico UNAM we felt God speaking to our hearts.  “This door is open.  Will you come here and work for me?” he asked.

I thought about my Europe.  I said, “Mexico??  But God, I took FRENCH!  Remember?   Is this one of those times when I say yes to what you want and then you give me what I really want instead?”

No.  Then he took me to the altar of my heart.  He reminded me of all the times I had knelt before him and said, “Lord, send me!!  I’ll go ANYWHERE!  Just send me SOMEWHERE!”

And he asked me again, “Did you really mean anywhere?”

“Yes, Lord.  I will go anywhere you send me.”  I humbly replied.  Europe slipped from my fingers.  And I had the sensation of falling backwards off a cliff and landing safely in God’s hands.  That free fall, stomach in the throat, adrenalin rush that you get just as you jump was me putting my trust in God, knowing that he was going to catch me.  Faith.  A leap of Faith.

Last year I had a very vivid dream.  The Lord was speaking to me.  In my dream the Lord and I were hovering over a globe of the world.  He showed me Europe.  I saw and felt and experienced in one moment everything I love about Europe.  Then the globe spun and I was over Latin America.  The same thing happened, in one moment I saw and felt and experienced everything I love about Latin America.  Then the globe was pulled back a little.  Looking at the whole world, God gave me a choice.  “Knowing what you now know, do you want Europe or Latin America?”  I was being given a choice, a permanent, real choice.

I hovered over the globe for longer than I thought it would take to make this decision. In my dream I cried over the agony of this choice.  Finally I said, “I can’t bear the thought of leaving Latin America.  I love it more than I ever thought I would.  I choose Latin America.”  As soon as I made my choice, the globe was removed from me and I felt that my decision was made final.  I would not be given this choice again.  But oh the peace that flooded my heart!  I knew I would be happy with this decision.

Something deep inside of me resonated like a bell.  There is a part of me that was made to respond to Latin America, and it thrills me to hear it ring like a bell in my heart.  What I thought I wanted was completely different from what I got instead.  And I am happy.  So happy.

Unchain My Soul

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If the tables and booths at Perkins could talk, what stories would they tell? My first date with my would-be husband was in a Perkins. We have eaten countless meals with youth group kids in Perkins. I’ve spent long hours of studying for a college exam in a booth at Perkins. And one of the most life changing conversations I’ve ever had took place over a crappy cup of coffee in a booth in a Perkins. It was a conversation that unchained my soul.

My husband and I had worked as youth pastors at our church for about 6 years at that point. It was a good solid church, with very old ideas. It was the kind of church that children grew up in… and then left. It wasn’t “cool”. It was just very solid in theology and family values, which is what families and old people look for in a church… but not youth or college kids. We worked with the youth. We paddled upstream. At this point, we were starting to feel like many of our dreams just were never going to be accomplished, or even approved by the board who was more concerned that the youth group not spill ketchup on their new carpeting than the fact that kids were loving Jesus here.

So we sat in a booth in a Perkins and had a conversation with a veteran missionary from Mexico who was in town. We shared our sense that God was moving us on, calling us to missions. We asked lots of questions about daily life and work in Mexico. And he answered our questions. Then he asked us the question that rocked my boat. He asked, “If you could do anything you wanted, without thinking of the cost or the obstacles, what would you love to do?”

No one, and I mean NO ONE. Had ever invited us to dream like that. I felt my soul come unleashed from dead end plans and dream killing skepticism. At first I couldn’t even think of what I wanted to do. Somewhere along the way I had lost my clear view of who I was and what I wanted. It wasn’t until someone asked me to verbalize what was in my heart that I realized that I had spent so many years trying to please everyone else didn’t even know myself anymore.

Permission to dream is what so many people are lacking right now. Dreamers don’t worry about who is going to pay for all this stuff. Dreamers don’t think about who is going to clean up the mess after the fact. Dreamers don’t parcel out the job responsibilities. Dreamers don’t always weigh themselves down with details either. Dreamers fly! Dreamers spin tales with gossamer threads. Dreamers MUST be free. Only an unchained soul can be free to dream. Dreamers have not forgotten how to be a child. Unfortunately this doesn’t give us permission to order off the children’s menu at Perkins.

So let me unchain YOUR soul to dream.  If you could do anything you wanted, without being bound by cost or obstacles, what would you do?