When Big Dreams are Small

I just read another blog about dreaming big.  Okay I skimmed it because I’ve read ones like it before. I always walk away from them feeling less than and I know that’s not what the writers intended.  But I do.

Don’t take me the wrong way here.  I’m all about fulfilling dreams.  I just wrote about it not long ago!  It’s okay to dream big!  I mean I didn’t want to be a journalist for nothing.  I wanted to prove myself and prove to others that I was worth something.  I wanted to make a name for myself.  So I totally understand about dreaming big because I’ve still got a few of my own.

But that’s my hang up.  What are our big dreams really about?  Are they about us?  Proving ourselves, our worth, our talents?  Or are they about God?  Trusting Him for the impossible?  Leaping into that faith journey?  Too often I get in the way.  It’s about me.  The message I take away is that I’m a failure if I don’t have a book deal, a huge ministry or fill in the blank.  My thinking is all wrong.

What does the term “big dreams” really mean?  I read the words “big dreams” or “dream big” and I automatically think the world is the stage.  Big equals success.  Maybe that’s just me because obviously I still have a few issues.

I think I am receiving the wrong message here.  Maybe in saying “big” we mean something else.  Big dreams don’t have to mean “big” in the world’s terms.  It means big on God’s terms and those are completely different and upside down from peoples’ ideas.  What we think as minor, as insignificant, may be the biggest life changers; more than any book, sermon or blog.  And that’s not to say that God can’t use them too.  We don’t have to put God in a box here.  He can use anything and anyone to change people and the world.  But I need to readjust my thinking and my ego.

Big dreams that the world, including some in the Christian world, would deem insignificant might be:

Dreaming your children would have a different childhood than yours and you’ve worked hard in so many ways to give that to them.

Dreaming whatever call you are following in your life, that you end up where God is already working.  Because that truly is the sweet spot.

Dreaming the people in your church are actually applying what they learn on Sundays and take it up a notch and read their bibles at home. It’s not about numbers or mega churches.

Dreaming  you live out what you preach.  Words are nothing without love, integrity and grace.

Dreaming and working towards paying off your debt so you can give more.

Dreaming your children will grow to love Jesus.  Since you are the main person in their lives to teach them that, you live it out day after day even when you are bored, scared and frustrated beyond belief!

Dreaming and praying everyday that your prodigal will come home.

Dreaming your workplace could be better and it starts with you.

Dreaming you can make a difference in someone’s life and it’s the small things that count.  Because after all, small isn’t in God’s vocabulary.

Perhaps I need to rethink what big dreams are in God’s Kingdom.  They are the ones that influence the people we cherish most.  In the end, I’d rather know that my actions and words affected my family for the better, that I made a difference in their lives.  Maybe then I would be mature enough to handle what the world calls big dreams, because I would know that in the bigger picture, they were really the smaller dreams.  I would understand that to lead, you must serve whether in your home, your workplace or church.

How Easter Changed Everything

Today as I drove my kids and my husband to school and work, it rained and was grey and dull.  My spirit felt gray and dull too.  Where was all the glory from Easter?  It appeared that it had faded into the recesses as the world took over once again.

Easter Changes Everything.  That was the title of our production at church this weekend.  But does it really?  Because it seems that on the Tuesday after Easter, everything is still the same.  Everything still falls flat.  Every day seems the same.  How is there hope in that?

Yes, eternal life is our hope.  I believe that and I am not minimizing that or the cross in any way, don’t get me wrong.  How do we work out that hope in the present?  Because I believe life here on earth while we wait for our home in heaven is not meant to be spent merely as a waiting room.  Jesus told us that He had come to give us not just life but abundant life.

After dropping everyone off at their destinations, I drove to meet a friend for breakfast.  I am still starved for relationships in this new city.  I rarely speak or talk to many people throughout the week.  Being an introvert, I can do this for weeks on end.  Until I can’t.  Meeting up a with friend today, breathed life into my depressing, same old, same old Tuesday.  Girls just need to chat it up every now and then.  That’s how God made us, even us introverts.  And it was good!  We spoke, we listened, we encouraged each other.   As I left the restaurant, suddenly the day didn’t seem so grey.  Loneliness I didn’t even know I was feeling was blown away, like dust off a table.  A seed of hope sprang to life.

We were created for relationship.  With God.  With others.  It will always fill some void in us.  It was one of the things that Jesus prayed for his disciples the night he was betrayed.  It always blows my mind that Jesus took the time to pray for his disciples and believers that night.   Throughout that prayer, Jesus speaks a lot about “being one as He and His Father are one.” (John 17)  He prays for protection.  He calls them His own.  It is a constant stream from the Father, to the Son to His Followers.  It is about relationship.  Good and healthy relationships build up, encourage, inspire and make us better.  They bring fullness to our lives.

Our relationship with God can be that too.  We no longer have to go through a priest or sacrifice animals.  We can go right to Him.  Read our bibles, pray, watch for Him as He works in the world.  As He shows Himself.  May we have eyes that see and ears to hear.

Our relationship with Him can bring fullness to our lives.  Easter changed that.

When Jesus showed himself to his disciples, he said, “Peace be with you!”  My study bible says that his greeting may have been said to calm their fears.  Remember they had all deserted Him on the Friday before.  We are all deserters at some point.  But His forgiveness is just a prayer away.  Nothing can ever separate us from His love for us.  If God sent His Son to die for us, do you think there is anything that can stand between us?  The cost alone of sending your one and only son, had to be worth it.  We were worth it.  It was complete.  No loopholes.  Nothing can separate us from His love, except ourselves.  Our choice.

Even on the worst days, the hope of His love for us can give us the handhold to hang on.  To hang in there.  Easter changed that.

Finally Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples and all believers after He went back to Heaven.  This still applies to us today.  The Spirit is our guide.  It is through the power of the Spirit that we do the work that God has for us.  We rise above the world and get glimpses of the Kingdom in our everyday lives.  The hope of this gives us life.  Gives us reasons to persevere even on depressing, rainy Tuesdays.  Easter changed that.

As the world gets back to business and the Easter holiday fades away as just one more holiday, I want my mantra to be, “Easter changed that for me.”  I pray the hope and glory of Easter shines through ever new day for you and for me.

If I Lived 2000 Years Ago….

It’s Holy Week which is the week leading up to Easter.  Growing up in a mainstream church, we never really talked about Holy Week.  At least I don’t’ remember doing so.  When I went to a different church while I was in university I was introduced to Holy Week.  How the whole week is an important journey to the fulfillment of God’s plan for His people.

The week leading to Jesus’ death on the cross was quite some week.  It wasn’t a quiet week by any means.  It started out with a bang on Palm Sunday.  Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people praised Him and laid palm branches for the donkey to ride on.  These people would be crying for his death by crucifixion at the end of the week.  It was a week like no other.

I have often wondered over the years if I had been alive then, whose side would I have chosen?  Would I have let fear of change, keep me from seeing the truth, like most of the chief priests and religious leaders?  Would the idea of keeping things the way we’ve always done them, have blinded me from Who was Truth, Who was changing things because they needed to change or else we would die?

Would I have been one who praised him on Sunday, pulling down palm branches to lay at his feet, only to find myself scoffing and mocking a mere five days later?  Yelling “Crucify Him!” with a mob.  Would I have thought we had “won” because He died on a cross?

Would I have realized the truth after He died, and tore my clothes in grief?  The realization that He was indeed, King of Jews, had come too late.

Or would I have been one of His followers?  Would I have gone out to the seaside or wilderness while He taught?  Would I have traded in the laws of religion for His message of truth and love and forgiveness?  A new way.

Maybe I would have been one of the women who followed Him and His Twelve, supporting them out of my own pockets?  Providing for their needs and sitting at His feet, soaking in every word?

Would I have scattered and hid, once Jesus was arrested?  Would I have given up hope that He was the One?  Or would my relationship with Him be rooted deep enough to stand this test?  Would I have known Him well enough to not lose sight of who He was and where He was from?  If I faltered like Peter, would I have known that He loved me so much, that I could run back to him, repentant and forgiven.

Would I have gone out to Golgotha?  Would I have watched them raise Him up on a cross, bloodied and beaten beyond recognition?  Would I have been angry?  Sick?  Filled with sorrow and grief?

And after it was over, would I have gone with other followers and holed up in someone’s house, speechless with grief and horror?  Later, having to hash it out with others, trying to make sense of the senseless?  Where would I find myself that Holy Week had I been alive?

I know what I would hope I would have done.  Where I would have been.  Whose side I would have chosen? I also know how easily it is to give in to pressure and be swayed.  How easy mockery and scoffing roll off these lips.  How fear can make me act irrationally, doing things I never would have thought possible.

I wonder about these things because they can just as easily apply today.  The way we live, what we say, what we believe; it all comes down to whether we believe He is the One and Only Son of God or not.

Is my relationship with Jesus deep enough to withstand fear, lies, mockery and persecution?  Do I know Him well enough to stand firm even when all else fails?  If today, I was transported back to Holy Week, where would I be and who would I be standing beside?  What about you?

When Your Dream is an Impossibility

Have you ever got to a point where you realized that what you were hoping for, working towards, dreaming about, was a complete impossibility?  That there was absolutely no way you could ever make it happen?

I’ve been chasing a dream for as long as I can remember.  In fact, for a while, I chased two dreams.  One was far fetched, the second one was out of this world.  I gave up the out of this world for just far fetched.  Do you know why?  Dreams are fragile things.  One word against them can bury them.  My teacher didn’t believe in me and so neither did I.  My confidence was zero to begin with and I’m not sure she understood what I was really asking.  Do I have what it takes?  Her reply made me think no.  Twenty years later, I’m not so sure it was a no.  My insecurity, youth and fear interpreted it as no but now I wonder if she was telling me I’d have to work hard.  Was I willing?  Hindsight is twenty-twenty as they say.  

I’ve learned though that dreams are fragile and need to be treated with the utmost gentleness and respect.  I sunk that out of this world dream.  And instead went after the other.  

I find it interesting that the world tells us to go after our dreams.  That everything is within reach.  But when you do pursue a dream, one that is even a little far fetched, the world looks at you like you are some sort of alien.  And treat you accordingly.  If you don’t have a live-savings filled to the brim, a whole network of people launched and all the i’s dotted, you are an idiot for going after something so elusive.  Something that could end with your face all covered in mud.

On the other end of the spectrum, anyone who has ever achieved a dream didn’t do it alone.  Family and friends have embraced your wild dreams and joined in for the ride.  Or at least give you an encouraging thumbs up.  They’ve seen the dream and have treated it with gentleness and respect.  I am so thankful to have those family members and friends.  They don’t think I’m an idiot.  Even when I do.  They have more faith in me than I will ever have in myself.  They are blessings.  They keep me pointed in the right direction.

Because if I had my way, I’d be running the other way.  Right into a brick wall.  I’ve tried to scale it.  I’ve tried to jump over it.  It’s painful how many times I’ve tried and failed to master that wall.  

I finally gave up and turned back to the dream because God gave me no other choice.  That wall hemmed me in on three sides.  The answer was always no.  It frustrated me beyond belief.  I argued with God.  I told Him he couldn’t tell me no to everything!  He told me it wasn’t, it was wait.  Work.  So I have.

Working on a dream brings peace, fulfillment and excitement.  And dread.  It’s an impossible dream.  I am like an ant among elephants.  A nobody.  The enormity of the impossibility hit me smack in the face today.  The only way this is going to happen is if God moves.  

I’ve been studying about how God specializes in impossibilities.  Take a look at the apostles.  Fishermen who became the pillars of the New Testament church.  Who took the gospel and spread it out to the world.  Fishermen were not scholars,  They were fairly low on society’s ladder.

David, a young shepherd, the youngest of a quiver of handsome, strong sons.  God chose him over them all to become the king of his people.  It would be through David’s descendants that the Messiah would come.

Mary, a young virgin girl, chosen to be the mother of God’s only Son.  Her cousin, Elizabeth, well past child-bearing age, giving birth to a son chosen to prepare the way for Jesus.  These are just a handful.

The bible is full of impossibilities made possible by God.  Aren’t we living examples of just that?  Jesus replied, “What is impossible for man is possible for God.” Luke 18:27 NIV

What impossible dream are you chasing today?

The Whisper of Hope When It All Seems Black

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There are days, seasons where it seems that the darkness outweighs the light.  A good friend and I have been talking over the last couple of days.  She said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  She’s right but it doesn’t make the world any less crazy, scary.  Hard to understand.

Sickness, war, cancer, death, to name a few, all crowd in, vying for our attention.  They’ve got mine these last few weeks.  Even the weather is making people wonder what is going on.  I watched a documentary on climate change the other night and I felt frightened for the world and for my kids’ future world.  It wasn’t even news to me.  I like to keep a close eye on the weather and climate change because the fact that the world is warming up is of great concern to me.  I hate hot.  I hate summer.

Doom and gloom.  With a late spring we are still waiting for, the world seems dirty, tired and just plain mean.  It’s hard to feel grateful.  I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers up.

Maybe while I’m lying there, I will think about some of the things that I’ve been reading about in Ephesians, and Colossians during the LentChallenge.  A theme that has been running through these epistles like an overflowing river.  Whispering hope.  Amidst all the distractions, it caught my attention.  The words IN CHRIST and the idea of Christ filling things.  Let me give you just a few examples I’ve come across:

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms, with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through his blood….

Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ

Ephesians 4: 5-6 One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  (emphasis added)

Those are just a few I’ve picked out.  If there was a focal point of the whole earth and everything in it, it would lead right back to Jesus.  In Him we are saved, we are blessed, we are redeemed.  He is in charge of all because he created it all.  All things – every thing that is assaulting you and me today, either good or bad – bow to Him.  He is before it and He is holding all things together.  He is all and in all and we can never get away from Him because He won’t let us go.  He’s got hands big enough to hold us.  To hold the world.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Psalm 139:7-10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The Power of Encouragement

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Yellow flowers.  The pot in a yellow cellophane wrapping.  It is singing spring to my soul.  An unexpected gift of encouragement.

A note expressing excitement about a project I’m working on.  The desire to procrastinate lessens.  My heart feels encouraged.  She believes in me, maybe I do too.  Encouragement, whether words or action, is a gift we give others.

I was having a conversation the other night with a group of women about encouragement.  We all have a common bond which is the basis for the group, but I don’t know any of these women personally.  It is online which is a new thing for me.  It’s taken me a while to get used to the whole concept.  I really like it!

The irony?  We talked about encouragement and how we could encourage the significant others in our lives.  Do you know what happened?  I walked away from that chat, feeling uplifted, inspired and understood.  We realized we really weren’t that different from one another.  We laughed at each other’s typos.  There was the sense that we were all there for one another and that encouraged me.  These are all small things.  They pay big dividends.  For both the giver and the recipient.  I was blessed to be the recipient this week.  I’ve been on the other end too.  Either way, you walk away feeling good about yourself, about God and about life in general.

This morning I was thinking about some advice I received in counseling a few years back.  “Let yourself off the hook,” she told me.  I thought about it again today and I think our perfectionism keeps us from accepting or giving encouragement.

It’s a simple yet profound little piece of advice. Letting myself off the hook doesn’t mean taking away all responsibility.  It’s prioritizing it.

My house isn’t great. Supper last night consisted of boxed meat and bagged fries.  It’s okay.  My boys are still being fed.  They won’t eat anything healthy at the moment anyway. (I’m taking myself off the hook for that too. Enough already of stressing about it!)  They have been hugged and kissed everyday.  The cleaning will still be there tomorrow and the next day too.

We’ve had family time around those boxed meals.  Listening to the injustice of a kid’s world and trying to make sense of it all.  Answered questions about every subject under the sun.  We haven’t done that perfectly either by the way.  Sometimes a stray electronic device may pop up.  Eyes glass over as the same tale is told for the hundredth time.

I’ve spent so many years desperate, fearful and joyless because I thought it had to be a certain way or my kids were doomed.  I thought I had to do this or that or I’d miss out on my purpose.  It all rested on me.  So as I’ve learned to “let myself off the hook”, I have experienced freedom in so many ways, but one in particular is to encourage and to let myself receive it.

If you are striving for some kind of perfection in your life, do yourself a favour and “let yourself off the hook”.  To all those mammas and daddys out there; be encouraged.  It does not all rest on you.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s doing our best (best does not equal perfect) but letting the rest go.  Sometimes our best is giving our kids fishy crackers for lunch and sitting on the couch.  ALL.DAY.

My experience, as I’ve taken myself less seriously and let myself be human, is I’ve noticed that encouragement doesn’t bounce off my rigid self anymore.  It doesn’t feel like a lie.  Instead it seeps through me, lifting up my soul.

It also flows more freely from me too.  I’m not afraid to tell someone that colour looks fabulous on them.  I’m freed up to encourage them in their efforts instead of being territorial.  I can give without analyzing seventy different ways it might be perceived!  Because the perfect meter has been turned off.  The hook ripped out of the wall.  And yellow flowers fill my being with their brilliance, with their encouragement.

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