The Risk of Dreaming

If dreams were sold on Amazon, they’d be shipped along with a Risk of Failure Waiver. It’s a package deal.

When we pour ourselves out for a vision, we run the risk of Failure. Not simply failed attempts, those are an inevitable part of dreaming big. Passion and belief in the vision give us the grit to get back up and try again after many failed attempts.

The real risk is ultimate Failure; disillusionment, realizing the vision was a mirage. That what you dreamed and poured yourself into is not going to be a reality.

Leaping into something you believe in with all of yourself means the crash landing of failure will hurt every part of you, threaten to wreck you.  You’re left feeling foolish for wasting your time, your passion, your self.

There’s this “What now?” moment when nothing looks the same as before. When the dreams you’ve invested in no longer exist and the landscape of your heart is foreign terrain. What now?

There’s a truth about God that makes all the difference in that moment.  It’s a truth that can silence the cynicism that threatens to take over. It brings a light of hope when pain darkens our vision. What is this truth?

The truth is, nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Nothing. Even in failure or change of direction. All that perseverance, faithfulness, hard work, love, sacrifice. In the face of crushed dreams and rejection. All the times you got it right. And every time you got it wrong. Not one moment is wasted.

It’s a little like Karate Kid.  Wax on. Wax off.

You may think you were learning how to polish a car, but God has been strategic. If you never touch a car again, still none of that effort was wasted.

You may have thought you were training to be a lawyer. Then a year into practicing law your life takes a major turn and suddenly you’re an entrepreneur, or serving in full time ministry. In God’s book, nothing about that is wasted. The studying, the financial discipline to get through school, the job search. Nothing was in vain.  

Wax on. Wax off.  

God has plans for putting all of it to use. It may just look different than you ever imagined. It may have been more about your heart than the skills you were building.

God is truly good and truly loving. He’s able to create the most magnificent things even out of those of us who have been crushed to dust. He’s dreaming for us! He’s inviting us to embrace the risk of broken dreams and walk with Him on this adventure of life. Because, even if we’re hurt again, broken dreams are not the final destination when we’ve surrendered our hearts to God.

So, what now?

Now we cling to this truth that nothing is wasted. We encourage our hearts with stories in the Bible where God proves Himself in this over, and over again. Look at David: tending sheep as a boy, in music ministry in the king’s service, defeating Goliath, living in caves while being hunted, reigning as king!  Nothing wasted.

We allow ourselves to grieve the dreams that were lost, but we don’t stay there because we have a hope that moves us forward. When our hearts refuse to dream again, we trust and rest in God’s goodness. He tells us in the Bible that He draws near to the broken hearted. As we find our joy in Him, He will fill our hearts with new dreams. 

We speak truth to a cynical heart, we trust that God is working for our good, and we ask Him to ignite a new dream in our hearts. And we trust that one day we will look back and see that nothing was wasted.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. ~Psalm 34:18

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. ~Romans 8:28

The Secret to Being Stronger

For the past several years I have played guitar as a part of the worship team at my church.  Even though I am one of the least advanced musicians on the team, I love being part of the band!  Last weekend, I played for the first time after taking a two month break.  The problem was, along with not playing on stage, I also didn’t pick up my guitar at home.  For two months, I didn’t practice.  My fingertips didn’t come in contact with the strings.

Over those 8 weeks, my fingers didn’t feel any different than normal.  I had no idea anything was changing…until I started practicing for the weekend.  After running through the songs a couple times, I became painfully aware that something had changed!  My fingertips were red and sore by the end of practice.  My ability to handle the pressure of the strings digging into my fingers had diminished.

We have three services on Sunday mornings, with a practice before that.  That’s about two hours of playing.  By the middle of the first service, I was feeling it!  By the end of the second service, I discovered blisters covering two of my fingertips.  I started the third service knowing that there was a chance the blisters would break…and psyching myself up to keep playing through the pain!

See, typically, I spend hours practicing before anyone sees me play on stage.  During a service, when I’m playing with all the passion I’m feeling, the strings dig in harder.  The practice time that no one sees keeps my fingers ready for the pressure of giving it all I’ve got on stage.

Sunday afternoon as I looked at my blisters – thankful that even though they grew during the last service, they didn’t break! – I saw such a strong parallel to our spiritual life.  I have trained my fingers through disciplined repetition.  My body responds to pressure a certain way because of the consistency of that practice time.  My ability to handle the pressure doesn’t stay the same when I neglect that discipline – even when I can’t tell that anything has changed.

That practice time is just like our daily devotion time with God – the consecrated, consistent time that nobody sees.  Authentic relationship with God is only cultivated through time spent in His presence.  There isn’t a shortcut to that.  As we grow closer to God, our ability to handle the pressures of life changes.  Our faith grows, our love grows, our peace and joy grow.  We are stronger.

When we neglect that time, we find ourselves in situations where our faith is not as strong as we thought it was.  And, just like those blisters, difficult circumstances will cause us more pain than they would have if we had stayed consistent in our time with God.

So, what does consecrated time with God look like?  Just like practicing guitar, it takes discipline and intentionality.  It means reading the Bible every day.  It means setting aside a specific time of focused prayer every day.  It means that even when we feel like it’s not making a difference, we trust that it is doing a work in us that we can’t even see.

For me, talking to God conversationally throughout the day or randomly opening my Bible to read for a few minutes comes easy.  It is much more difficult for me to follow a structured schedule – but it is so necessary!

We need consistent time with Him.  That is what makes us stronger.  Let’s not wait until the pressures of life cause unnecessary blisters!  Let’s commit to a consecrated, daily time in God’s presence.  You will be stronger.  It will affect your life in ways you never imagined!

When You Need to Kill a Year Before New Year’s Eve

Yesterday I officiated a funeral.  This was not your typical funeral.  For one thing, I was the only one in attendance.  For another thing, I did both the killing and the burying.

Most years come to a gradual end and quietly die of old age on December 31.  People pay their respects through small gestures.  Year in review photo albums, comments on the highs and lows, resolutions in hopes of tweaking some things for the next year…

 I decided that I could not allow 2015 to have its own typical, peaceful end.  So I took it upon myself to kill it.

As if a small bit of justice can be served by me killing it early, having the final word.  So, on December 18, I killed 2015.  Burned it and buried it.
And let me tell you, in case you are ever planning to burn a book that represents a year of your life,

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Our Deepest Thirst

I took the day off yesterday.  I wasn’t sick.  My kids weren’t sick.  I just needed a day.  A day to catch up on life – real life – the kind you feel, not the kind you do.

I had a lovely breakfast at my favorite taco spot, but as I left I was at a loss.  Five hours until I pick up kids from school.  How do I spend it?  How do I make this day valuable?  My practical list of tasks begging for my attention is long – clean, sort, organize, purchase…
My body has been asking for rest.  Should I read and nap all day?  Maybe book a massage?
And writing!  How I’ve longed to have a day to devote to writing!

None of these options seem like they will fulfill the purpose of this precious day.  But the clock is ticking.  So I begin to voice my frustration to God, “God, you know what this feeling is much more than I do.  It’s this restlessness.  It’s this not having enough. This not being enough.  It’s this heaviness even when things are good.  What I’m really asking is, how do I make this ache go away?”

And there it was.   Continue reading

Trust changes everything…

When I was 17, I found myself in a place where I was being deeply impacted by other people’s choices.  Specifically, my parents.
They had decided to move out of state.  I had no control over it, and I didn’t like it.

I was old enough to have a very independent life, but not at all in a place to be financially independent.  And that’s a pretty important part of independence!

So, in the middle of anger, deep sadness and frustration, I schemed and planned out every possible way that I could stay behind.  Continue reading