Letting Go

I remember someone once describing the Christian life as offering God a blank piece of paper. This has seemed extremely negative to me – this offering of blankness, as though I’m offering nothing, and yet God made me the person I am, I argue inwardly; gave me abilities, emotions and desires. People write about the dream God’s placed within us, but what if it’s our dream? Of our flesh? And what God really wants from us is nothing?

What if it’s only in letting go of our dreams that we make space for Him to fill us with His dreams? “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11); my favourite verse, but to get to that means giving God everything we are and everything we hope to be. This would be fine if we all knew we’d have an Isaac-moment: That moment where Abraham put his son Isaac on the altar to be sacrificed, as instructed, and God’s angel basically said ‘It’s ok, you don’t have to anymore. I just wanted to see if you were willing’ … but will we do as Abraham did? Will we trust God with our lives? Will we do the things He asks us to? Hand over the things He asks us to give Him? Maybe it’s only in letting go of old aspirations that we can grasp true life.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Linking up with Tuesday at Ten

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5-Minute Friday: Reach

Kate Motaung has got me writing again with her Five Minute Friday prompt, and my 5 minutes for this week starts with an unusual question:
* * *
Who remembers S Club 7? When I was in my early 20s, they released the song “Reach”. It wasn’t a Christian song, but its message is optimistic:
“Reach for the stars;
“Follow that rainbow,
“And your dreams will all come true”.

For some strange reason, that song was the first thing to come into my head when I saw this week’s prompt, maybe because I’m in a good mood (Friday’s a favourite day of the week for me), so why don’t we ... reach for the stars?

What’s the big dream in your life – the thing you would reach for, if only ... I have lots of them. I’d love to go up Table Mountain in a cable car with my South African friend; to take my Filipino boy to a theme park in Manila called Enchanted Kingdom; to record more of my songs professionally; to have a paid job; to ...

But it’s good to have those dreams. When you want to do something, it’s good to be able to ask yourself: "Why not?" Sometimes answers to that question aren’t slow in coming, but when we still dream, when we still ask, it means there’s a part of us that’s alive – that’s reaching – that’s trusting for better things around the corner.

“With every step you take, think about what He wants, and He will help you go the right way” (Proverbs 3:6).

Cheer on the Dreamers

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

 

Has anyone in your circle of friends had a dream fulfilled?  An engagement?  A new baby?  Their ideal job?  This verse got me thinking about someone who has.

 

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I love Holley’s writing.  She and her husband Mark had struggled for over 10 years with infertility.  All those shared hopes on their wedding day, only to realise later that she couldn’t pour herself into the next generation.  Motherhood was her dream that seemed impossible, but just recently, God gave her the word ‘Love’ for 2014, and started prompting her heart about older girls – too adult for the fostering system, but still in need of parental support.  Through a ministry called Saving Grace, God put a 20-year-old (now their daughter, Lovelle) into their lives.  It was International Mothers’ Day on Sunday, and they celebrated Mothers’ Day for the first time.

 

I’ve never met Holley in person, but that story makes me smile so much!  Let’s be happy for the ones whose dreams have been realised – yes, but let’s keep them in prayer too.  It can be easy to support people until they’ve had their answer and then forget them.  I remember this post from Jarrod’s blog a couple of years ago because, unusually, he didn’t forget.  He talked about some recent miracles – deaf ears opened, years of pain disappearing … and he asked us to pray for those people afterwards as they gave back their mobility cars or looked for work.

 

The thing is, once your dream’s come true, there’s sure to be a point when reality hits:  When those rose-tinted glasses become … just plain glasses.  I don’t know how much Holley and Lovelle will write about their ups and downs – the other’s habits they find irritating, yesterday’s baggage that comes to the surface when they least expect it … and I don’t know your situation as you read this.  If you’re parenting a new-born, perhaps they’ve been cranky all day, and your biggest accomplishment was to get dressed and put a meal on the table.

 

“A dream fulfilled is a tree of life”, but even healthy trees need maintenance.  I want to encourage you to support the dreamers – beforehand, and when the rubber hits the road.

Never Too Late

I’ve just been reading about Anna – someone who saw Jesus when He was a baby.  There are just three verses in the Bible devoted to her, and here’s what I saw in them.

Let’s think about the Jews for a minute.  They’re waiting for their Messiah (literally God’s anointed One) to be a Deliverer for them.  So, if you’d been waiting all your life for this Messiah, praying to God and going without food sometimes – if waiting for Him was the purpose of your life, when you actually got to see Him, wouldn’t that just be the pinnacle of everything you’d hoped for and dreamed of – the very best moment of your life, the one all those other moments had been leading to?  Not surprising that Anna thanked God and spoke about Jesus (Luke 2:38).

But here’s the thing about Anna:  She was very old.  I’m not really sure how old she was.  The translation I read says she had been married for seven years and then was a widow for eighty-four (Luke 2:36-37).  People married young in those days, so if she married at fourteen, that would put her at a hundred and five.  Another translation says she was a widow until she was eighty-four (Luke 2:37).

Whether she was eighty-four or a hundred and five doesn’t really matter.  The point is, she saw the baby Jesus when she was very old.  The pinnacle of her ministry, the very best part, came when she was over eighty – perhaps over a hundred!  Wow!  It’s never too late to serve God, and don’t be surprised if the best part is yet to come.

My friend Becky has also written a post about Anna this month, if you’d like to read it.

31 Days of Song: “Show the Way”

I don’t know whether Kim Hill will ever read this, but I must apologise to her if she does because when I first heard her voice, I didn’t know whether she was a man or a woman!  And the name Kim wasn’t much of a giveaway either.  Again with her it was difficult to choose a song, but this one was in my head this morning – one I’ve always liked.

 

Do you sometimes think it’s silly to follow your dreams because something’s bound to happen to derail them?  Well, this is an invitation to ignore those fears and just live the best you can.  There’s a quote one of my friends has on her Facebook profile.  I don’t know where it came from, but we both love it.  “Be realistic … demand the impossible.”

Living the Dream

Ten years ago I had a dream.  I was in my 20s then.  Maybe you’ll think it was a stupid dream; so yes, you can laugh and yes, you can tell me I should have known better, but here goes:  My dream was to be a chaplain to the Formula One drivers – to travel with them, and organise a short worship-service they could come to really early on Sunday mornings before all the busyness of race-day started.

 

I didn’t talk about it to family or friends.  I guess I knew they wouldn’t take me seriously, but I did write it in a letter once.  I’d just got in-touch with an organisation called Christians in Motorsport, and I’d had a couple of phone-conversations with the guy behind it, so I wrote and told him what I wanted to do with my life.  Predictably, he replied that a woman being chaplain to male F1 drivers was out of the question, but we kept in-touch.  Eventually the organisation voted in someone else as chairman, and I decided to step back from it.  So, end of story?

 

Let me tell you what happened today.  A certain driver didn’t have a great qualifying.  People have said in race-commentaries that he’s had problems in his personal life, and he sounded very dejected after the session today.  I felt I really wanted to send him my favourite Bible-verse (Jeremiah 29:11) about the plans God has to give us hope and a future.  Lots of celebrities are on Twitter now, so I was able to write just a couple of sentences, telling him God had good plans for his life.

 

Then it dawned on me that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing ten years ago.  I wasn’t getting paid for it; I wasn’t travelling the world or talking with drivers face-to-face as I’d imagined, but I was encouraging one of them to think about God in his situation.

 

So, it wasn’t a stupid dream:  The way I wanted to live it out might have been stupid and totally impractical, but God had it all in-hand.  How was I to know that in 2013, social media would make it so easy to interact with people who before would have been out of my reach?

 

Are there any dreams you’ve had that you thought would never happen?  What if you’re wrong?

Part of the Plan

Holley asked us to write this week about what brings us joy, particularly relating to our God-sized dream.  Of course, if they’re related to a God-sized dream, they’ll be Godly things – not things that contradict His Word.  I had one of the most joyful days on Monday, as I sat in a café for 2 hours, having lunch and talking with one of my most treasured friends.  Some of you reading this may think:  That brings happiness, not joy, but I’d argue the opposite.  You see, spending quality time with this friend twice in a month is something I could only have dreamed of a few years ago.  It’s precious, and I’m super-grateful to God for it.

Holley says if we look at the things that bring us most joy, that’s a clue to God’s call on our life.  God uses what we already have.  You see that with Moses in Exodus 2:11-17:  He had a passion to bring about justice, and he didn’t always get it right.  Look at when he killed that Egyptian, but nevertheless it was there.  As my pastor said, it was there as much when he couldn’t stand by and let those shepherds stop his future wife from watering her flocks, as when he went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him to let the Israelites go.  You see it with Peter too:  He basically had a big mouth!  One minute he’d be all-out for God, the next he’d be trying to side-track Jesus, but the Lord eventually used Peter’s words to save 3,000 people in a day.  And I see it in my own life:  I love singing, I love writing; I feel God’s called me to do both.

So if spending time with family and friends is what brings me joy, maybe people will always be part of God’s call on my life.  Maybe I’ll never be like one of those missionaries who travel to foreign nations on their own to spread the gospel, and maybe that’s ok, because it’s not how God made me.

What things bring you joy?  Do you see them as part of God’s plan for your life?

Trusting Even If …

On the subject of God-sized dream stories that inspire me, here’s another.

 

There were three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They had a dream.  When they refused to worship the king’s golden statue and he threatened them with death in the fiery furnace, they had the outcome in mind:  God would deliver them, and they would go on with their lives.

 

Kelly Williams, a singer I know in the US, wrote a song about them once.  Some of the lines were:

“We know our God is able to deliver us,

“O but even if He does not,

“We will put our trust in the LORD”.

 

If someone was to make a statement like that in church today, they might be criticised for their lack of faith.  But was it a lack of faith, or is saying those words an act of love and surrender?  “Lord, this is my dream, but even if you don’t do it, I’ll still trust You.”  The most exciting part of course is that God did deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

 

I know stories don’t always end that way.  My uncle had cancer.  I prayed earnestly that he would be healed, but he wasn’t.  I don’t know why these things happen, but if it’s because Satan’s trying to make us doubt God, we don’t have to let him win.

 

I saw a quote from Corrie Ten Boom.  “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”  However many negative experiences we might have had in the past, let’s keep believing for the impossible.  Let the cry of our hearts always be:  “We will put our trust in the Lord.”

Wait for that Dream

Have you read any books by Holley Gerth?  Or maybe one of your friends has found some of her encouraging words and popped them in an E-mail.  Well, Holley’s doing a series on her blog this year, all about God-sized dreams.  I haven’t been great at participating, but I’m joining in this time as she’s asked us to find a God-sized dream story that inspires us, and write about it.

There are so many dreamers in the Bible, but the one I want to think about is Jacob.  He had a dream:  She was beautiful …  Her name was Rachel.  He met her one day when she was a shepherdess, looking after her father’s sheep.  Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and he was about to stay at her family-home.  By the time he’d been there a month, he was in-love with her, so when his uncle asked what wages he should give him, Jacob knew:  He wanted to take Rachel as his wife, and he agreed to work 7 years for the privilege.

What must those 7 years have been like?  Who did Jacob meet?  Were there other young women in town, and was Jacob very good-looking?  I wonder if anyone tried to persuade him not to wait 7 years for the one he loved …  But the Bible says very clearly that they seemed like just a few days to him because of his love for Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

Then it happened – the wedding day came, but his uncle Laban tricked him.  When it was dark, Laban gave Jacob his daughter – the other daughter; Rachel’s elder sister, Leah.  I wonder how Jacob felt when he woke up next to Leah.  Did the doubts come sweeping in?  Had the other girls been right all along – was this a door closed?  Because not everyone respects the one who waits.  Some people, when they don’t see instant results, will say:  “What if it’s not God’s will?” or:  “God can do anything, but …”

Do you know why Jacob inspires me?  Because he didn’t let anyone dampen his spirits.  He didn’t give up on his dream and just accept second-best.  He confronted his uncle.  “Didn’t I work to get Rachel?  Why did you trick me?” and the confrontation paid off.  Within a week, they were married and starting their life together.  Could it be that when you feel like giving up, the best is just around the corner?

I read this quote from Henry David Thoreau recently:  “Friends are kind to one another’s dreams.”  Don’t listen to the buts and the naysayers.  Hold tight to those friends who encourage you to dream big, … and wait for that dream.