Tag Archives: God

Calling Versus Dreams

As another new week begins, I’ve been given more to think about through my reading of the devotional 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. My first read-through of this morning’s entry was a surface reading which brought a surface understanding. I didn’t quite know what God was trying to tell me. Then, I read it again, and understanding dawned. It reached its tendrils through all the phases of my life–through the disappointments and through the joys. Through thinking that I will never have any gifts to share with my church to thinking that my gifts from God would need to be shared elsewhere. It was an understanding I didn’t expect on this day of possible severe weather.

So, calling versus dreams. I didn’t think there was a difference, but there is, at least, according to the author. Dreams are things that might not come true. The author uses her dream of spouse, kids, and a house as an example. That makes sense to me. I’ve shared before in this space of my dream of becoming a published author, of having a bigger audience for my words than I have now. That dream might not come true either. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to have the dreams. He just wants us to put them in the proper context.

Then, there’s calling. What God calls you to do with your life. Romans 11:29 in The Message says this, “God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty–never canceled, never rescinded.” But, the thing is that’s what has changed for me. When I was younger, I thought my calling was to teach school. I did that for a few years. Then, we moved, and God called me to be a full-time mom and a school volunteer. We moved again, and a year later, God called me to homeschool our sons. So, for twelve years, I have been a mom and a teacher. I guess I was fulfilling the same calling, just in different ways.

Now, my time as a teacher is almost done. My younger son graduates from high school in two months, and I have a different calling on my heart–the calling to write full-time. I’ve done a lot of that in the last few years–books, short stories, blog posts. It’s easier for me to “speak” when I write the words, and I’ve learned a lot about myself as I’ve written them. I’ve become stronger and surer of myself as a person. I’ve also become stronger in my faith and more in tune with the voice of my Lord and Savior. Writing is a way for me to communicate without feeling clumsy as I often do in person, and it has changed my life in more ways than I can count. I feel called to share those changes in my writing and to use my writing as an instrument of change.

What is the difference, then, between my calling and my dreams? I think it boils down to what’s under my control and what’s not. Putting pen to paper or typing to computer screen is under my control. Doing the work and putting it out there is under my control. Whether I get a publishing contract or not is under someone else’s control. God wants me to be content doing the work and sharing it even if I never see the outcome. He wants my hope to be in Him and no one else. And that’s what I want most of all–to live out my calling in His love and His grace and to see what He does with my words! May we all live in His love and grace today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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Working on our Character

I’m starting this post without a title because I need to work out my feelings about it as I write. I promise you though I will have a title by the time I’m finished. šŸ™‚

So, today’s devotional topic is how to find people to be brave with about our dreams. It quotes Proverbs 11:4 and gives us a number of questions to consider. I’m not saying that the advice isn’t godly. Not at all. I’m just saying the advice seems to contradict some things I read and considered earlier. Let’s look at the information first, and then I will give you my thoughts.

First, let me quote Proverbs 11:4. “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Wisdom is certainly a good thing. God wants us to spend time in His Word and in prayer with Him so we can gain wisdom as we walk in this world.

Then, in the devotional, the author asks several questions and adds personal commentary to each one. I’m going to quote the questions because they are good questions to consider. “Who do I trust?” “Who isn’t too invested or emotionally involved in my life?” “Who have I seen exhibit wisdom in their lives?” “Who have I seen repeatedly being trustworthy?” “Who I have seen experience failure?” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Like I said, good questions, especially the last one. It has only been in recent years I’ve learned that people who have experienced failure can often be the best teachers. I know this because I’ve failed at some big things myself.

This is the information that was presented in the devotion. When I read through it the first time, something bothered me though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I read through it several more times, but that nugget of confusion stayed just out of reach. I didn’t understand why. Like I said, it was good information.

Then, it came to me. It was information that promoted protecting ourselves–find someone to trust, find someone who isn’t emotionally involved in my life, find someone who has repeatedly been trustworthy. Let me say this again. I’mĀ notĀ saying this is a bad thing. You want to tell sensitive information to trustworthy people. You don’t want people to freak out if they don’t like what you have to say. But, I think this can go to an extreme if you’re not careful. What if you can’t find anyone to trust in your faith community so you decide to keep everything about your life private? I would answer that by asking if you’ve truly invested in your faith community. I know it’s tough. It took me a long time to trust anyone again after our trust was betrayed. But, God meant for us to be braveĀ in community. To live our faith lifeĀ inĀ community. For me, that means I need to try, no, I have to try to trust even when every part of my being says not to.

There’s another hard question we need to ask ourselves. What if we’re the person no one ever trusts? I’m not saying this just for the opportunity to hear sensitive information. I’m sayingĀ  we need to consider why people can’t reveal their honest selves to us. Have we truly let God form our character? Are we seeking the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians? Are we living out this faith we say we believe? Yes, we sin, and yes, we are broken, but people should be able to see Jesus in us if we are truly following our Lord and Savior.

So, now, I’ve come to the point where I need to wrap everything up and think of a title for this post. I believe there is a way to truly be brave in community without compromising the suggestions the author gives in today’s devotion. The first way is to get to a point where you don’t care what others think of you, only Jesus. I know, for some of us, this will be a work in progress until we go home to be with Jesus. At least, it will be for me. The second way is to make a true investment in a faith community. The only way we will know people the way God wants us to is to take that risk–to be brave and open our hearts during the good times as well as the bad. And finally, we need to let God work on our character so we can become trustworthy and gentle and loving. In other words, so we can have a heart like His!

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Bravery in Community

We weren’t meant to struggle alone, and we weren’t meant to be brave alone. It’s taken me years to work that out in my head. It’s hard to be brave or to be vulnerable when your trust has been betrayed. I’ll be covering who to be brave with in more detail tomorrow, but let’s just say that time and God’s love have worked on my heart enough where I feel ready to be brave again.

Why do we need to be brave with each other and not just by ourselves? Number one–God calls us to. Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I used to read these verses and think they were talking about the early church, but I don’t anymore. They have become rooted deep in my heart and have a more personal meaning to me now.

The second reason is that if we tell someone what we’re thinking or feeling, we have a tendency to be more committed and follow through with whatever we’ve said. In other words, we’ve shown commitment to the people around us. Because of our bravery or our vulnerability, there will be people who will ask how it’s going or whether we’ve accomplished that thing we set out to do. These are things that will help us stay accountable and were what God meant, I think, when He created us to live in community with one another.

This is a hard thing for those of us in the western church. We have such an individualistic mind-set that we think we can’t or shouldn’t depend on anyone else. Church is a box to be checked off, and we think our relationship with God is something that is just between us and Him with no one else involved. I’ve learned that this is not true. It is so not true, but it takes all of us being brave and vulnerable to be the church God wants us to be in His world. To be God’s community to our hurting world.

Our news is filled with shootings, sickness, selfish people, and evil. Can we who are believers be brave enough to be different? Can we be Jesus to those who are hurting? Can we be brave in our communities of believers? I don’t know about you, but my heart wants to try. I’m praying we will all have the desire to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Dream Chaser

From the beginning, there are some people who chase their dreams with a single-minded purpose. As the author says in this morning’s devotion, some people know about their dreams long before they know how to accomplish them. They spend their young lives learning all they need to accomplish their dream, and then it happens. They win that Olympic gold medal; they have the opportunity to play professional sports; they become a doctor at a young age. As the idiomatic expression goes, they have the world at their feet, and nothing’s going to stop them.

Then, there are those of us who chase dreams in a more normal way. No, the word normal isn’t right. Maybe I should say, ‘Then, this is how the majority of us pursue dreams.’ We look for others’ approval. We think that only people who are naturally good at something can pursue a particular dream. We want to have a career that actually makes money, and we think our dream won’t make us money. We’re told that we can’t have that dream for any number of reasons–gender, race, family opposition, etc., etc., etc. We even can sabotage ourselves in the achieving of our dreams, thinking that we’re not good enough, even though we might be with hard work. But, many of us miss that lesson, I think. We also make choices for different dreams when life happens like when we marry or become a parent.

I’ve gone through all these stages and more. There were times when I didn’t think I could do something because of my gender or because of my lack of natural ability. There were times when I wanted approval from others and changed myself to meet those expectations. There were also times when I changed my dreams because of life circumstances.

I remember when we made the choice to homeschool our sons. I knew this choice would be for the long haul when we made it and that I would need to totally focus on them–as their teacher and their mother. I don’t regret that choice now, and I didn’t regret it then though I felt a dying to self on that day. But, isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? To die to self each and every day. So, I did, and homeschooling has been a success by every stretch of the imagination. My sons have received an education; we’ve become closer as a family; and we’ve come back to God. All successes in my book. I even got to use the talents God has given me during that time. Teaching writing was easy, and I practiced writing stories every chance I had. All in preparation for the next phase of my life when my younger son graduates from high school in just over two months.

I say all this to say that dreams can be chased no matter how old we are. That’s why God gives them to us. Sometimes, it takes a lot to draw them out of us as it says in Proverbs 20:5. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” There is also a quote from the author of today’s devotion that really spoke to me, and I think it applies now that I’m at this stage of my life. “God loves to put wings on dreams that His kids chase, dreams that can bring Him glory.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) My prayer for all of us today is that we continue to chase our dreams as we love God and use those dreams to bring Him glory!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

It’s Okay to Mourn

Specifically, today’s topic deals with mourning dreams that have died. At least, that’s what the devotion topic is about. I want to expand it though. I want to say it’s okay to mourn the bad things that have happened in your life.

For those of us who are believers, I think this message has gotten lost in the translation. When we become Christians, we think we should be filled with the joy of Jesus and that nothing should ever be wrong again because we are filled with that joy. Don’t get me wrong. The fruits of the Spirit are a thing, :-), and our lives should be filled with them. Galatians 5:22-23 says this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These are all things God has given us.

At the same time, God realizes we still live in a broken world with its hurts and disappointments. He knows we will mourn, and that’s okay. In Biblical times, they called it lamenting. Here are some examples. Psalm 5:1 says, “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.” Here is another one from Jeremiah 4:8. “So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned from us.” Jeremiah 7:29 and 9:20 are also good examples. “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.” “Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.” Finally, the entire book of Job is a lament of everything that had happened to him.

So, with all of these examples in Scripture, one might think that the present-day church would have its act together regarding mourning. I’m sad to say it doesn’t, at least not in the western church. There is a prescribed time of mourning for someone who has died, and if there are personal problems to be mourned, well, that’s not really accepted inside the church. We are expected to be buttoned up, zipped up, and to only show the good parts of being a Christian. If we’re hurting or we’ve done something bad, we don’t think we should show it, and if we do, we feel ashamed. At least, I do. Your mileage may differ.

We even feel shame when we’re invited to share our burdens and our hurts. One of the speakers at my church on Sunday invited people to stand if they had been affected by a laundry list of hurts and burdens. The object was to show that we are all affected by hurts and burdens and that we need to support each other. Many people stood, but it was an uncomfortable standing, a standing that felt obligated instead of wanted.

There are a number of things that are good about living in the west, but the overemphasis on individuality to the exclusion of community is not one of them. We think we have to handle everything by ourselves, but that is the furthest thing from the truth and even further from God’s truth. God meant for us to have community. He meant for us to laugh together and to mourn together. He meant for us to encourage one another as we lean into God’s love and grace and for us to be the church to our hurting world. Because, the church is not just a building. It is a group of us who are living out God’s perfect grace to an imperfect world. May we all lean into that truth today as we love together, laugh together, and mourn together!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Open Doors

Have you ever wondered what you were supposed to do next? How many times have you wished for a neon sign saying ‘This is it.’ or ‘This is the path you’re supposed to take.’? I know I have. I’ve talked a lot about what I want to try to do next year after my son graduates from high school. Some people might say I’ve talked too much. šŸ™‚ I’m starting to think though that what I want to see is an open door. I want to know exactly what I’ll be doing so I don’t have to wonder anymore. I want to know that I’m following God’s will for my life.

Knowing things for certain all the time isn’t the way God works. Sure, there are some things we know for certain. We get a signal that we’re supposed to move to another city. A job comes along at just the right time. We meet someone who changes our life many years later. But, for the most part, we have to live our lives by faith and trust, staying in communion with our Lord and Savior, and live out the lessons He is teaching us every day through Scripture, through prayer, and through other people.

Right now, God is preparingĀ  me to be ready for the open door like he prepared the author of the devotion in this morning’s entry. It wasn’t anything miraculous or all-knowing. The author saw a picture of a place, and it stuck with her when she saw that there was going to be a missions trip taking place to that very country. If I am conscious with staying in communion with God, I will be ready when the time is right. Like it says in Psalm 23:3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” So, my prayer today is that I will be brave enough to walk through the open door when God leads me to it. May we all walk through the open doors God gives us!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Preparation

With this blog post, I am one-quarter of the way through writing my reactions to the devotional 100 Days to Brave. God knew what He was doing when He led me to this book. He knew I would need the words of wisdom He had given to this author and the Scripture which has gone with each entry. Writing these posts has been a productive experience so far, and I have grown so much. Looking forward to God’s nuggets of wisdom as I keep going.

So, today’s topic is preparation. Actually, the title of the devotion is “Dream in Pieces”, but I think the titles are synonymous so I’m going with “Preparation” for my post. I spoke some about this topic yesterday. By writing every day, I’m preparing for the time when I become a published author. I’m practicing my craft by writing my words down, by staying on topic when I write, by placing my writing where others can read it, and by using the rules of grammar well so my writing is understandable. All things that are important in preparation.

When I first saw the title of the devotion, I wondered why it had been placed after the “Dream Big” devotion. Just as quickly, the answer came to me. Our big dreams need preparation. They can become overwhelming if the big dream is achieved all at once. We can be discouraged from realizing the big dream if one small part fails. And we might be tempted to not give credit where credit is due if we achieve the big dream too soon. That’s why God has us prepare for our dreams one piece at a time.

It was that way in Scripture. David was young when his father sent him to see how the battle with the Philistines was going and how his brothers were doing. He found all of the soldiers scared of Goliath. He amazed them when he volunteered to fight this huge giant, but, even though he was young, God had already been preparing David for this battle. By killing bears and lions in his daily job of tending the sheep, David had grown in his courage and bravery each day and had grown in his belief in God. He knew that God had a role for him to play which would require courage that would be revealed at just the right time.

It was the same way with Jesus. His life and His years in ministry were in preparation for one thing–the cross, and He didn’t allow Himself to be distracted either. His single-minded focus gave us all the chance to be reconciled with God (through our belief in Him), and His courage gave us the model we should look towards as we seek to become braver in glorifying Him.

I also think that’s why we don’t have a clear understanding of all of Scripture. God knew that we would need multiple re-readings of His story for His teachings to develop our heart and our character. He also knew we would need preparation as we sought to serve Him where He placed us. Understanding His story one piece at a time helps us to develop our trust in Him over the long run.

It is the same with dreaming in pieces. As we achieve our dreams one piece at a time, we develop an abiding trust in our Lord and Savior, and we are able to lean into His love and grace even more. May we all know that kind of trust today!

 

Praying God’s blessings for you all today!